Katie is Nine!

Sunday was Katie's ninth birthday. She celebrated by taking four friends to Mile End Climbing Wall for a climbing party. It was awesome. The girls were beautifully behaved and a real pleasure to have around. It was a great day.

So, what does it mean to have a nine-year-old? I'm still not sure, but my gosh she's a stunner. I really can't get over all that she can do. I think our job as parents is to launch people out into the world. I'm not ready yet, but I think if we had to, Katie would survive. Brilliantly. That is reassuring in some ways, terrifying in others.

Katie has no fixed plan for her life, which I think is sensible at NINE. She has recently been crowned the Under 9 Girls Kent Chess Team Champion. We've got the massive trophy on the shelf to prove it. We can even get her name chiseled into it. It's awesome. She has also completed the Gold level for Ice Dancing. She is going to repeat the level as we can keep her in group lessons (read: cheaper), and she feels she has more to learn. The next step would be private lessons and competitions. Where will we find the time?

At school Katie is as lovely and keen as ever. I have next to me a story she wrote last week (when she was still technically eight). Want to read it? Let's just assume you've said yes.

(Picture of hideous, spidery monster wearing a crown and a massive grin)

"Where am I?" shrieked James. He had just been staring at this strange, old, wooden plank when... there was a chatter from behind him. James tried to swivel roudn to try and catch the voice, but he couldn't: He was stuck. James was bound tightly wiht ropes, but just as he figured that out, the lights went on.

He said: "There in front of me was an alien. She was about twice as big as a human head and seemed twice as clever. Her head was a perfect circle, although her short, but spindly-like body was just plain metal; like a steel toothbrush just without hte bristles. The alien's legs were a sort of silvery-grey colour, but her face was peach. She had no hands, just a huge, toothy grin spreading further and further across her face every second. Her eight legs meant that she could pick up a whole pile of things without struggling." He drew a deep breath.

"Her ears were huge and curvy, but she couldn't hear through them - she spoke through them instead. It was freaky! "Hello," replied the alien. "My name is SpiderBaby. I believe you have something of mine."

Just then, James screamed, "AAARRRGGGHHH!!!" And the next thing he knew, there was a blackout.


Cool, huh?



When our friends the Scotts moved back to America, we inherited their fish. This was only fair, because Katie once tried to kill the fish. Not on purpose, really, but she did pour half a jar of fish food into their tank. This was a bit too much food for fish who are supposed to get 10-12 grains a day. It took the Scotts a long time to clear out all the food. The fish survived, but somehow we have a debt of responsibility to them.

So, we have pets now.

We did pretty well with them, except we lost Star a week or two ago. This was a bummer, because I liked her best. Amadeus is a big bully and Georgia is a bottom feeder (no, really, she is). Today I went to Pets at Home and bought two new female mollies to keep Amadeus company. I chose two of different colours so we could (hopefully) see genetics in action. I chose a white one and a gold one, brought them home and let the girls decide on their names.

Katie chose to name the white one Sparkle, and Buffy has named the gold one Little Star in homage to the Star we lost.

It's hard to feel attached to fish, but I am really pleased to see how the girls and Andrew have taken to these creatures. I hope we even get some science lessons out of it with the arrival of some babies. Should be fun up to the point of explaining why Amadeus ate the fry. (I don't know.. he's a jerk?)


Andrew brought home a massive spiral-bound book from work. It was only printed on one side, so he figured Buffy would enjoy the drawing space. He was partially right. She has thoroughly enjoyed the book - both sides of the page - but she's mostly used it for writing. She hasn't shown us any of these, but we had a flick through the book last night. Her are some of her gems:

Do not let babys or nruserry children on your spesheil report or you can IF you want your report Dstroed

For Santeal (Santa),
Plesae for Cristmas can I have a magic Book and fristley when I open the page and I toch the book little sparks from the book come to my hole self.

Riteing for your techer
To Santa I wold like for Cristmas a scatebord a bike a rain bow necles that if you open a rainbow will come out

INPORTANT seratedy (strategy) now days is never going to Be anything only IF you want ANYTHING

(arrow to following words)
nothing about that on page 12


Very Good on hand riteing now hard or its easy

Put together
put diffrent words bat and that sepret
Next level
San Francisco
Next Level


Katie has started attending training days led by the Kent chess team. She's not on the team, but she can go train with them. It was a long day, but she seemed to enjoy it. Andrew signed her up for the first level, but she quickly proved too far along for it, and they bumped her up to the next level. She can now sit a chess exam in November which will bring her a step closer to being eligible to join the team.

Frankly, I'm not sure what all of this means. Chess is Andrew's world, not mine. Maybe I could get into Chess the Musical, but beyond the rudiments of the game, I'm lost. We firmly believe in nurturing our children's gifts and interests, wherever they lead. I fear that a choice is fast approaching - chess or ice skating. Of course she can always do both, but not at a high level. There just aren't enough hours in the weekend.

While ice skating is more my world, I am not sure I want the girls to go very deep into it. The near future seems to be full of expensive outfits and heavy make-up. That doesn't appeal in the slightest. Athleticism? Grace? Confidence? Of course. But they have strange bedfellows in the world of ice skating. No one puts on hairspray and fake tan to go for a run. Or to a chess tournament.

Ultimately this is Katie's decision, and we are very proud that she has so many doors open to her. Right now we will keep going as we are, but our candle is starting to feel a bit short!

Our weekend

Spending the summer in Albuquerque has given me a lot to think about. There's a lot to be said for being so close to family and forests. Every time we go, we have a big talk about whether we could/should live there. We investigate house prices, neighbourhoods, schools and even jobs. By the end of it all, we have a comprehensive plan. Every time (so far) we look at our plan and decide that we could be very happy in New Mexico, but we don't feel the need to move. London is incredibly exciting, and it will take a lifetime to exhaust all it offers. It's not easy to be so far from home, but this is where my heart is.

This weekend has been a perfect example. Friday night I went to a welcome back drinks party at the girls' school. Yesterday, Andrew took the girls ice skating (Silver award for Katie, Level one for Buffy!) while I went with a friend to London Fashion Weekend. We shopped through Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Lungta de Fancy and all sorts of fabulous designers. We ate delicious, rustic sandwiches and drank Chambord champagne cocktails while watching a catwalk show. Today Andrew took Katie to a chess tournament, and Buffy and I walked down to the end of the street to watch the Run to the Beat half-marathoners race by. Later we are thinking of going by the Royal Naval College to check out the filming of the new Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Next weeked will include a tea party and the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. Less than a mile away. New Mexico is wonderful, but I've still got things to do here!

Katie's Chess

So, yeah, Katie's kind of getting really good at chess. She won her school's chess club competition (beating even Year 6 students). She did herself proud at the Gigafinal. When we got home Andrew got a call from some guy who runs the under-11s chess club for Kent. She's been invited to join. They just happen to be the best team in the country right now.

The girls' school let out on Tuesday, so I thought it would be fun to bring Katie to school with me on Friday. Even in an unstructured day, I don't think Buffy could sit back and let me teach. Maybe someday? (Dream on!) Katie was thrilled. She squeezed her hands into excited little fists under her chin and said, "More school?!" Our little geek! As it was going to be a Friday, I asked if she could join the chess club.

My school's chess club is very boy-heavy. Katie has only played girls and her dad. I wanted to see how she'd do with a bunch of big boys. Could they intimidate the good play right out of her? First she played the coach (who is also a coach on the Kent team), then he placed her with a student whom he felt would be a good match.

A boy.

An 11-year-old boy.

Katie thrashed him!