Category Archives: Family

Harry Potter Themed 9th Birthday Party

Harry Potter 9th Birthday Party

Guests were asked to arrive promptly for sorting into houses. They were then sent in for wand making (sticking washi tape and sparkles on to chopsticks), and then to Professor Moody for Defense Against the Dark Arts (Pin the Wand on a large poster of Harry).

Then they were sent outside to practice Wingardiam Leviosa (balacing a baloon on a wand tip), while waiting for Divination class.

Cheryl made a brilliant Professor Trelawney (albeit without the sherry fumes), and some kids loved her class so much they wanted to do it twice!

While Divination was in session for one house at a time, Brooke ran History of Magic (Harry Potter trivia), and Vish ran them ragged with outdoor games.

We then had snacks and cake and present opening, and finished up with a herbology class, putting Extract of Murtlap and Bubotuber Pus into small jars for potions lessons at home. Preferably in the bathtub!

A wonderful time was had by all the kids, and all of the adults were driven to gin. Thank you to my wonderful professors, and Angi who quietly helped where it was needed and helped everything to run smoothly. I have had some lovely thank you messages from parents, which make all the effort worthwhile (as well as having a happy kid!).

Happy Birthday Squidilng

Inigo 9th Birthday

Kid went to bed 8, woke up 9.

Went to bed with Ogden the Octopus, and his new favourite soft toy “Zombunny” tucked inside his pyjamas. Zombunny was an early Christmas present made by the wonderful Cheryl, and he is perfect. At nine, he is still the kid that is late for school to stay with a dying monarch butterfly, has meaningful relationships with soft toys, and one particular tree at school.

At nine, he is still generous with his kisses and cuddles, still loves extravagantly, and still holds my hand to cross the road. But he also plays chess like a fiend, can ride his bike all the way to school, and climbs all the way to the top of the indoor climbing wall without a trace of fear.

He is brave, he is sweet, he is kind and he is clever. He is every bit as wonderful as I ever hoped he might be, and he keeps getting more and more himself, which is an absolute joy to watch. The last few years have brought some tough challenges, and he has recently proved to be more than a match for them. With the support of his teachers, he has gone from strength to strength this year, and (touch wood!), we may have found the magic formula for engagement at school. See the previous few posts for more detail.

And today, we finally had the initial assessment with an Occupational Therapist. It will be a while before we get the report back, but it looks like we might be finally on the road to a diagnosis, and some support for his challenges.

After the OT, we had lunch at his favourite restaurant Ras Vatika (Dosa and dhai Puri with a mango lassi), then went into town to see the windows at Smith & Caugheys. We wandered inside and discovered the Magical Forest, so we decided to check that out (highly recommended if you’re in Auckland with a kid), and then to Aotea Square for the giant lego Christmas tree.

Daddy then met us at the cinema for “Fantastic Beasts”, sushi for dinner, and then a trip to Giappo for the world’s best ice cream.

Which apparently comes with a candle for your ninth birthday.

On the way home he told me that he wished he had a time turner so he could live today over and over again. “It’s like I drank a whole bottle of Felix Felicis last night, and I’ve had a whole day of perfection”. I hear you kid.

For the teachers

This is a shout out to my teacher peeps.

This week, my kid expressed his unhappiness at school in a way that could not be ignored, and it couldn’t be misinterpreted.

And the response from the school has been heartening. Teachers who have worked with my boy have been shocked, and distressed, and they have made the time to set things in motion for change.

There have been teachers in his past that have ignored, minimised and disregarded his challenges, and his feelings about school, and my advocacy for my boy. But the last two days I have seen three teachers go above and beyond to make sure that this situation gets turned around.

And one special teacher, who happens to be a friend to both Squid and I, who took time out of her busy life to make sure we are supported and informed, and nurtured – you can’t know what your advocacy has meant.

I am hopeful that things will change really soon. And if it does, it will be down to great teachers, working passionately within a system that constrains and stifles where it should lift up and celebrate these wonderful people.

Thank you for the work you do.

Harry Potter is Ready to Party

Wizard!
Inigo’s friend from Mind Plus, Liam, had a Harry Potter themed birthday party on the weekend. After years of trying to get the kin enthused about the books, we finally let him watch the first movie on Saturday night. We bought a wand, and a broom, some glasses, and some face paint to draw on a scar, and on Sunday morning he chose his own outfit. The robes were from his Star Wars party, but he was given authentic ones when he arrived!

Broomstick

Nothing to see here

Thanks to Jenny who notified me of the blog being hacked, Mark was able to gain back control pretty easily. So I thought I should post something after a long silence.

Life is ticking along well in Auckland. Squid has a really great teacher this year, and is actually enjoying school most of the time, I am really busy in the lead up to the Creative Fibre annual festival that we are organising in Auckland this year, and Mark is doing ok. He’s not enjoying life in Auckland as much as Squid and I, but he’s OK.

Inigo has been really enjoying indoor climbing ,and is showing a real talent for it. Last weekend he fell out of a tree and injured himself so badly we had to go to the emergency room, but he is healing well, and still keen on climbing!

Happy families

Adam and Andrea are friends that I have known for years – since before Inigo was born and we used to go to a pub in Newtown for a knitting group.
 
 They bought a house, and renovated. They planned to start a family, and planned a more extensive renovation. But first, a wedding.
 
 Harbour Wedding
 
 Very soon afterwards, they found out they were expecting. Twins!
 
 Yesterday, we had a visit from them, Owen and Olivia are now two and a half, clever, chatty and adorable.
 
 Happiness!
 
 A simple reminder of the wonderful work I am lucky enough to do.
 
 
 - from my iPhone

How was your day?

So the cold from hell seems to be over. The fourth round of antibiotics seems to have done the trick, and I am now back to “normal” amounts of lung medication to keep me from brain death. After a week of regularly getting above 95% when I tested my oxygen perfusion, I decided it was finally time to go back to the sports medicine specialist to get the results of my MRI.

My iphone (4s) decided to refuse to turn on this morning, so after a comedy of errors I finally arrived 15 minutes late, and then had to wait a further half hour. Turns out, there are reasons for delayed appointments that aren’t to do with doctors being lazy.

So my MRI shows that I have another ruptured disk, the very bottom one in my spine. Because this disk bears all the weight of the spine, healing will take some time (it’s already been 10 months!), but it should come good with some physio and more rest.

But the MRI showed something else. A lipoma, a little collection of cells that in itself isn’t a problem, but the specialist wants me to see a neurologist to rule out “tethered spine syndrome”, which is a possible cause of my pain.

Hopefully my phone will restart, and the backup a week ago was recent enough that I haven’t lost much of importance (except the photos of our fab holiday in Russell with Richard and Miriam this weekend :( ).

My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today

Steph let me know that Carrot Vizzini Tiberius Rex Nettle-Da Silva didn’t wake from his sleep this morning.

We adopted him knowing that he was “older” and we were lucky to have had so many years with him. We were also lucky that his final year was spent very much dictating his own terms, as lord high ruler of the lounge room at Steph’s place since we moved to New Zealand.

Goodbye to the world’s most handsome bunny. We will always love you.

The first day we met

My bunny and my bunny boy


The most luxuriant tail in the world.

Children are weird

Mine is currently rolling around a problem in his head – he is hilarious, but his friends don’t yet get it. They ask him to stop being hilarious, but he is convinced that if he keeps being hilarious, eventually they will get the joke, and everyone will have a good laugh. In the meantime, they are throwing rocks at him. Actual rocks. And he keeps cracking jokes.

I put it to him that “most children are assholes”, and that expecting them to change will be an exercise in frustration, so he had better choose between sharing his gifts, and protecting his soft fleshy bits.

He is taking this under advisement, but thinks that hiding his light under a bushel won’t allow him to be true to himself. Ergo, children are weird.

Meanwhile, round three of “meetings with the school” starts tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Twice exceptional

Squishy Electronics

We finally took the plunge and spent the money to have a full educational psych assessment for His Squishyness. $825 for two sessions over two days of 2 hours each. Except that he took so long, each session took three hours, and we were asked to come back for another hour the next day. On the third day, he answered more questions, and his fluid reasoning score increased – but he still left some of the questions unanswered.

He’s bright. Really bright. Like genius level clever.

But so fricking slow that it’s hard for a teacher to notice the clever. Like someone gave him a huge library of information to pack into his brain, but the librarian is senile. And maybe on psychoactive drugs.

He’s above the 99th percentile in general intelligence, but at the 27th percentile for cognitive efficiency. That is well into learning difficulty territory.

This “asynchrony” is referred to as being “Twice Exceptional”. Which means that we have a kid with a brain the size of a planet, who also has a significant learning difficulty. He’ll need extra time than most kids on lots of things, and less time on others. It’s going to mean he’ll need some really wonderful, creative, and patient teachers, and parents. There is also a very strong (99%) chance that he also has either Inattentive ADD, or something similar, but that is yet to be diagnosed fully.

It means we’ve been on the right track with how we have parented him, and how we have pursued the right educational opportunities, and not just let things slide. And now we have a lot of work to do, but at least we’ll have support, and guidance.

Gainful Emloyment

The New Zealand government has a philosophy that all kids should be catered to in the school environment.  

“The New Zealand School Trustees Association describes school policy as a framework that integrates culture and practice, values and actions. Inclusive schools ensure that the principles of inclusion are embedded in their policies, plans, and actions. They develop specific policies for the inclusion of students with special education needs…”

Which is great, right?

So Squish’s school has approached me to ask if I might consider helping out as a teachers aide for a few weeks while they get a more permanent person in to work with a new kid.  I’ve started back at uni, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to juggle work and uni and family in the longer term.  

The new kid has a global developmental delay, and he needs an aide with him the whole time while he is at school.  I did my first shift today.  

And it was fine.  He’s a lovely kid, responsive and keen to try new things, and he has loads of energy and enthusiasm.  It was hard work, but I can see that working with him has the potential to be quite rewarding in the long term.

But yesterday, a teacher in the same school told me that there simply wasn’t enough resources to be able to give my kid the differentiation and attention that he needs in order to be integrated into exactly the same school.  That he would need to be home schooled if I wanted his learning to be tailored to his needs.

So much as I hate the whole “my kid is a precious snowflake” syndrome, it is rather a double standard to claim that the school can be all things to all kids – except the ones at the wrong end of the bell curve.

At the Mind Plus information session we went to last week, I asked about emerging research and best practice in the field of teaching gifted kids.  Internationally, more countries are starting to have classes just for gifted kids, and that these classes give kids the best opportunity to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses.  

NZ policy is to cater to everyone, and giving extra support where it is required within the school setting – just not to kids like Squish, who struggle at the other end of the spectrum.

Bikes in Schools

Squish’s school has just become part of this awesome program.

Over the holidays they have built a bike track around the school play area, and hopefully he’l learn to ride at school. Check out the video on the linked page, it looks like a really positive intervention for the kids.

And I have re-enrolled in uni. It’s going to cost me about $200 to sit each exam, but other than that I can continue to study from New Zealand, and still earn my degree in Australia.

I’m OK. Are you?

Living in NZ has been mostly great.  We miss our family and friends, and great Middle Eastern food, but all three of us have found things we absolutely adore about living in NZ.  Mark is doing challenging and interesting work, and living a short walk from work has been great for us spending time together as a family.  Mark gets to see Inigo both in the morning, and in the evening – in Sydney he was usually asleep by the time Mark got home from work.

Mark has also found a new choir to sing with, an octet that has paid gigs, and they are flying him down to Wellington for a gig next month.  Exciting stuff.

Inigo has two rocking schools.  Freemans Bay School is a lovely city school with loads of green space, a kitchen garden, the freedom to go barefoot and climb trees, and the ability to just be him, without the pressure to conform to anybody elses idea of “normal”.  The school is very child centered, and Squishy is loving the freedom and personal power he gets from taking responsibility and ownership of his learning process.  It’s not perfect, but he is a much, much happier wee beastie when Monday morning rolls around each week than he ever was about going to school in Sydney.

And then there is One Day School.  A place where kids get to explore a new topic each week, with the freedom to apply their own initiative and resources however they see fit.  Where the kids are guided and encouraged to explore the topic through their own eyes and methods. I can’t speak highly enough about what this experience has meant for Squish.  He was already a great thinker, but he is gaining so much confidence and passion for learning, that he is wanting to do homework so that he can have more time at school for his projects.

I have withdrawn from university again this semester because the exam period fell exactly in the middle of when Mark’s contract here ended, and the uncertainty about where we would be living was very damaging to my ability to focus on study.  So I have thrown myself face first into the Auckland (and greater New Zealand) fibre scene.

I have joined Creative Fibre, and attended lots of different groups.  I have learned bobbin lace, and loom weaving, and supported spindling, and how to use a hackle, a drum carder, and now I have even bought a double treadle spinning wheel.  And last month I taught my first class – “Unravelling Ravelry”.  Some of you may laugh at the thought of me teaching Ravelry (yes, you Emily!), but i have come a long way, and the process of putting together the class notes taught me a lot.  The class went brilliantly, and I am happy to say that the owner of the yarn shop has asked me back to teach two new classes. Learn to Knit, and Continental Kntiing both coming up.

Our tenure in NZ ends in about six weeks, and we have not yet reached an agreement with Mark’s employers that will enable us to stay here long term.

The stress, of course, is huge.  On the upside, Mark and I have weathered some pretty rough storms in the past, and we are very lucky that we are able to communicate effectively and present a united front.  We’ll get through this, and will be thrilled at the outcome.  If we have to come back to Sydney, we get to have Summer and Christmas with our loved ones, Squish will be able to go back to choir and piano lessons, I’ll get back on track with uni, and Mark’s job will carry on, and I’m sure he will find another choir.

And if we end up staying here, you can look forward to lots of pictures of our travels around this lovely country, and more fibery adventures, and the joy of packing up a three bedroom cluttered house to move into a tiny two bedroom apartment.  Joy!

So, on RUOK day, how are YOU doing?  If your glass is only half full, can I help you top it up a little?