Delphine (old posts, page 9)

Sixth Birthday

Delphine's birthday was better than her party, although still a weird day. For one thing, it's Mother's Day so she had to share her special day with me. And after breakfast, Cordelia came down with that same miserable puking sickness Delphine just recovered from. But before the major puking set in, Delphine managed to open a truly impressive haul of presents. I love buying things for her, and I don't indulge throughout the year, so birthdays and Christmas are OTT.

She got a million books, some science magazines, a prism to hang in her window, some hairbands, a bunch of super cute summer clothes from Baba, games from friends, wind chimes, a badminton set, some stationery, and her very own metal water bottle to take to school. I managed to get her a whole bunch of stuff without adding to the existing quantities of junk in her room: no new dolls, no new buddies, no new Playmobil or little toys which are hard to put away. More books, but she still has plenty of feet of empty bookshelf space to fill before that becomes a problem.

The rest of the day was pretty low key. Blake and I spelled off lying on the couch with Cordelia and hanging out with Delphine; he played badminton, I helped her paint her wind chime. Later Baba and Zaida took her out for a swim, while Blake and I took turns napping with Cordelia. I took the first shift, and woke up in one of those completely confused hazes. A cup of tea cured that, and I commenced making Delphine's birthday cake. I did a crazy food colouring rainbow cake; three layers of cake (purple, green and orange) separated by three layers of icing (blue, yellow and red). Considering I started it so late in the day and I've never made a cake like that it turned out pretty well. (Pictures were taken and will eventually appear.)

Delphine didn't eat much of her birthday dinner; her appetite still hasn't recovered since she was sick. But she had a nice time with her family and she liked her presents (hooray!). This might not have been the best birthday ever, but it was still a good one.

Last Day of Five

Today was Delphine's last day of being five, and also the day of her birthday party. There almost was no party; Delphine has been laid low with some kind of puking and fatigue disease. She stayed home from school on Friday and I warned the party invitees that the party may be off. This morning Delphine woke up feeling better, so I made a bunch of calls to summon the troops. One of the kids had already changed her plans, so in fact of Delphine's original list of six, only three children were able to come. (Two of her list had previously declined.)

The weather wasn't conducive to small-child-partying. There were intermittent thunderstorms all day, which meant all our fun outside games were transferred inside, smaller and darker and less fun.

I don't know if the children enjoyed themselves; they certainly aren't shy about letting you know when they're not having fun, when they don't like a game, when they don't like any of the food, when someone isn't playing the way they want you to, or indeed when anything isn't rocking their little worlds. But nobody screamed and demanded to be sent home, so I suppose that's a win. You might guess I didn't particularly enjoy hosting today's party.

Delphine didn't have a great day either. It started with still being a little bit sick, complicated by bad weather, missing friends, and a party that didn't go as smoothly as she wanted it to - Cordelia didn't play the games properly and nobody listened to her. By this afternoon she didn't like any of her presents and nobody loved her, and by 7:15 pm she was begging to go to bed. Tomorrow is her birthday and I hope it goes better.

(It's now 9:47 pm, and Delphine is crying in her room. Blake went upstairs to comfort her, and I just heard her say, "I want chicken!" Turns out she wanted Chicken her buddy, not chicken the food.)

Friends to Make Maps With

Delphine and I were walking to a playdate a few weeks ago. As we walked she asked me about the names of the streets we were on, and which way they all go. I said, maybe sometime we can make a map of the neighbourhood. "Maybe," I said, "you could do it at your playdate, and your friend's mother could help."

"That would be fun." said Delphine, "But my friend will only want to play fairies!"

Then she paused and said, "No-one ever wants to do what I want to do." (She is prone to these gloomy generalizations.) "None of my friends like what I like."

I explained to her that she has only met thirty people her age at school, plus a handful more at daycare and around. I said as she goes through school she'll meet more people and maybe one day she we meet someone who wants to make maps instead of playing with fairies. Sooner or later we all find our people.

First Day of Senior Kindergarten

Last Tuesday was Delphine's last day of summer vacation. We stuck labels on her new backpack, lunch bag and shoes, and speculated about her new teacher, which of last year's kids would be in this year's class, and whether the JKs would be cute or not. While we were eating lunch I wondered how we had felt on the same day last year, Delphine's last day before Junior Kindergarten. Were we excited, were we nervous? I don't know, and I never will because I never wrote it down.

This year Delphine was a little nervous. She was scared that the teacher wouldn't like her, although that fear was largely soothed by the arrival of a lovely letter from Mrs Thompson to Delphine (in the mail, no less!) saying how excited she was to meet Delphine and what fun they would have in kindergarten, learning letters and numbers. Delphine was a bit offended by that last bit — "I already know letters and numbers!" — but I said Mrs T probably sent the same letter to the SKs and JKs, who might not know their letters and numbers yet.

I, too, was a little nervous, probably more so than last year because this year I know what is coming — a lot of getting people places on time and not much time in between to take stock. But only a little nervous, because this year I do know what's coming, and I have a plan, and perhaps most importantly I have accepted that taking people places is my main job during the school year (well, along with feeding and clothing them), and anything else I can get done apart from that is pretty much bonus. So rather than regarding the commuting as an inconvenient interruption to my life, I now just go along with it. Think of all the exercise!

Delphine's first day of school was last Wednesday. She's still in afternoons, and she's in the same classroom as last year, and as it turns out, all the Seniors were in her class last year. The first day of school was only Seniors, so she got to renew some old friendships and get to know her new teacher. Delphine loves Mrs Thompson! Mrs Thompson smiles a lot, and on the first day she wore a pink dress — I don't know if that was calculated to win the favour of a roomful of five-year-old girls (the Seniors are six girls and two boys) but if it was, it worked. Delphine says Mrs Thompson does everything in the wrong order (which is to say, not the way Mrs Hollister did it) but she seems willing to indulge her errors. Mrs Thompson taught her a new song! In fact, yesterday Mrs Thompson taught her the Macarena! And they say public schooling is inferior!

Delphine has now had four days of SK. She wasn't impressed by the JKs on day two — they were noisy and talked too much — but yesterday she kind of made friends with one of them. She had gym on Thursday (her teacher's name is Mr Laundry! Actually it's Mr Landry, but 'Mr Laundry' cracks her up) and Library on Friday, and everything seems to be going fabulously.

Since Delphine learned to read over the summer, and SK/Grade 1 is supposed to be when you learn to read, I'm going to talk to Mrs Thompson about what, if any, other goals Delphine should work towards over the school year, and what kinds of enrichment she can offer her. She's beyond the basic "k-k-k-kite" Jolly Phonics stuff this year, so I hope we can manage not to bore her out of her tree. Especially considering there are only eight SKs. But I'm borrowing trouble, I'm sure we'll work something out. Now it's time to make lunch and haul everyone off to school, at least once I manage to get some clothes on Cordelia.

More pictures.

This afternoon, Cordelia wanted to “paint on your computer”! so after I finished my game, I fired up Sketches, and this is what she ended up painting. It’s nothing in particular, but kind of pretty nonetheless.

Conversations with Delphine, Part XV: Shouted and Written

Delphine and Cordelia have really started fighting in earnest, sibling-style, lately. Previously they got in little tiffs about who should play with which toy, or who should be on what side of the bath — sensible stuff — but now they just bicker for the sake of it. The other day I heard this:

Delphine: "You're a pest! You're Ramona!"
Cordelia: "No I not Ramona! I not in a book!"
Delphine: "Yes you are!"
Cordelia: "This in't a book!"

But later that same day Delphine retreated to her room for half an hour and emerged with four pages stapled together with a drawing of a princess to colour in, some dotted lines to trace over and letters to copy. It was an activity book for Cordelia, and on the first page she titled it "UORVAREFRSTBOKK". ("Your Very First Book") She spent all that time and thought to do something nice for her sister. That's how I know she really loves her, even though she is a pest.

Delphine's writing is progressing (although as you can see she doesn't know about spaces between words, internal vowels are sporadic, and she prefers ALL CAPS) and she loves to write things down. The trend now is to let little kids just write things down anyhow and work on spelling later; it's called inventive spelling and for me it mainly reinforces how difficult and random the English language is.

Yesterday Delphine decided she wanted to write down some girl names that she liked, in case she has a girl baby. Here is what she came up with:

GORLS (That's the title.)
GABREELA (Gabriella)
MEGIMN (Megan)
LVEA (Livia)
HEG (Hedge — I don't know why this is on her list)
LENDA (Linda)

More pictures.

I’ve recently installed a new version of Sketches, and today Delphine asked if we could draw another picture. So we did. Then we emailed it to Amy, and I got Delphine to tell me what letters to write for her sentence. (I also told her about putting a space between each word, which is something that Ms. Hollister said that we could tell her about if we wanted.)

The sentence was “Ths is a heis on a hil wth to bsis.”, which I’m sure you can all read as “This is a house on a hill with two bushes.”.

Delphine is Five

Delphine turned five this Saturday, and we had a party on the deck. Delphine invited five of her friends, and between food and cleaning up and decorating and games and loot it was almost as much work as a grown-up party. But now the house is clean! Ish.

The night before her birthday, Delphine slept over at Baba and Zaida's house. Baba wanted to take Delphine to Science Rendezvous in the morning, and I had a book club meeting Friday night, so a sleepover was advantageous for all.

Saturday dawned bright but not as early as usual; we had put Cordelia down early on Friday so between that and not having Delphine around to wake her, she slept in until 7:45. (Did you know if you put your kids to bed earlier they sleep later? Weird but true.) We got up and leapt into action; Blake and Cordelia picked up flowers and bread and pickles, I cleaned up and made egg salad and iced cupcakes and put up the daisy decorations Delphine had made. After lunch we put Cordelia down for an early nap, and Auntie Morgan came over to help out.

The party started at 2:00, and Delphine only got home a few minutes before that in time to put on her new red party dress. All the partiers arrived on time —Ursa, Erika, Tina, Sydney, and Athena, and four out of the five Mums stayed, which was cool; also in attendance were Baba and Zaida and Auntie Morgan and Uncle Erik — and we got into the swing of things: crafts, a treasure hunt (the treasure was wrapped boxes of Nerds), some dancing games (they didn't seem to enjoy those much), Pass the Parcel (that was a huge hit), and of course little sandwiches, chips, cake, ice cream and jelly (Jell-o, except made with real juice). (That was a really long sentence with altogether too much punctuation.) There was a good bit of random running around the backyard, too, which was more popular than I expected.

Delphine mostly had a good time — she got mad at me when I didn't take her suggestion for a music game (who knew "Row Row Row Your Boat" was even a game?) but otherwise it was nice. There is some weird bullying/power abuse going on with one of the girls and we tried to ameliorate that as much as we could, but Delphine wasn't directly involved so it didn't seem to bother her. We'll have the "victim" over for a playdate sometime to make her feel more welcome and loved. (She — the victim — is a very intensely affectionate little girl, and that annoys the others a bit, and so they are mean to her – they say she can't play with them. Not surprisingly she's also intensely emotional so she takes it seriously when someone says something hurtful. It's a mess; I'm so glad I'm not a little girl any more! That sucked!)

Anyway, apart from that the party was a hit, and Delphine got some great presents and had a lovely day.

In addition to turning five, she has also grown two centimeters in the last month, and she can now read upside-down. Well, she can't properly read books and stuff, but she's getting pretty good at picking out individual words as long as their spelling is "standard". I guess the memorization of non-standard words really begins once you start reading in earnest and encounter those words more. (Although of course she can read "one" and "two" which are non-standard, so I guess she has already started to build up that database.) She's working on learning to ride a bike without training wheels, and to skip. Five is going to be a very exciting year!

Lick Sticks

I gave Delphine and Cordelia each a lollipop after lunch today, and wow, was it ever quiet with two gobs stopped up with candy! When Delphine was halfway through hers, she said, "If I were going to name this thing I'm eating, I would call it Lick Sticks. Because you lick it, and it's a stick. It doesn't pop, and you don't lolly it!"

She has a future in marketing.

Disjointed Observations (some of which resemble bragging): Delphine Edition

Delphine is just under two months away from being five, and in the last month or so she went through one of those quantum changes — your kid goes to bed one day and she's four and a half, and wakes up the next day and she's nearly five. Her hair is longer, her face is more girlish and less babyish, she has all these freckles that came out of nowhere, she uses long words and elaborate grammatical constructions, she can almost read. It's a bit dizzying, frankly, but I couldn't be happier. The more she moves away from babyhood the more I like hanging out with her.

So yeah, she can almost read. I would say she's a few weeks from really being able to read; she can sound out short (phonically logical) words, and she is learning a few tricks (like looking at the first letter and the associated picture and guessing!) to work out the other 95% of the English language. She's also sight-learned a few words, which suits me because that's largely how I (and I assume most literate adults) read.

I will say now that I hate phonics. I hated it when I was a kid and I still hate it now. I hated it when I was a kid because it didn't work (and because I thought it was a lame crutch for kids who couldn't "really" read — I was a huge snob when I was a kid). I hate it now because it still doesn't work; I feel like such a fraud when I tell Delphine to "sound it out" when I know that that's a technique which will hardly ever help her figure out a word. I am perplexed by the emphasis phonics receives, unless it's because no-one has come up with a better way of "teaching" kids to read, and they want to feel like they're doing something. The English language is too full of exceptions for phonics to be worth anything — if you want to read anything more interesting than the most pedestrian Easy Reader (another thing I hated as a kid) you are going to come across the word "one" or the word "weigh" or the word "said" and phonics is going to let you down. I don't have any answers, though. All I know is I figured out how to read by being read to (no-one taught me) and I expect my children will do that same, whether or not they learn "k-k-k-kite" at school.

Back to Delphine, who can also write. She can form letters like a demon, so she writes quickly if you spell things out for her, but she's also really bold about writing on her own and guessing how things are spelled. She loves to write cards for her friends. "Athena I love you." They are always love letters.

Okay, this is my last brag about Delphine, I promise. We were talking about aunties the other day; since she's been old enough to talk we've been working with the convenient fiction that she has two aunties, Auntie Morgan and Auntie J'Anne. On Sunday I decided she's old enough to understand that Auntie J'Anne is actually Daddy's auntie and her Great-Aunt (although J'Anne is hardly the quivering old dear that the title implies). To illustrate the idea I decided to do a family tree. I walked Delphine through drawing up a crude diagram with circles for each person and lines joining us all up. When it came to labelling, Delphine decided that she was going to write each person's name around their circle, with the letters projecting out perpendicular to the surface of the circle. (I'll take a picture so you can see what I mean.) And she did so, forming each letter correctly with respect to the slope of the circle, without turning the paper around. That means she can rotate two-dimensional objects in her head!

Obviously I think that's pretty cool, whether or not almost-five is exactly when you would expect someone to be able to rotate two-dimensional objects in their head (I have no idea). It's math! Do you know what this means? It means she'll be able to read maps, and walk around strange cities without getting hopelessly lost, and figure out where this bit goes on that bicycle without trying it! It means she'll be able to do those useless spatial manipulation questions in IQ tests! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that she has math brain — she comes from two families of math heads — but I'm still pleased. Now we just need to get her doing cryptics.

Part of the being-almost-five (and not really four anymore) is that Delphine is generally nicer to be around (don't let anyone tell you about Terrible Twos, Four is much worse. Twos get a bad rap.) However I can't get her to stop yelling at Cordelia. Poor Cordelia seems to get screamed at all day, when she won't give up a toy, when she can't learn the rules of a game, when she hides wrong in Hide and Seek. I know Delphine learned all about yelling from me, but the scale is entirely different! I have yelled at her fewer than ten times in her whole life, whereas she seems to yell at DeeDee ten times a day. Well, maybe five. I guess they mean it when they say your bad behaviour will be reflected in your kids' behaviour, but I didn't realize it would be magnified to this extent. I have a book out about managing Anger and Aggression (for parents and children) so hopefully that will help. Because I don't have Clue One what to do at this point. At least March Break is over so they can get out of each other's hair for a while every day.