Mostly Katie

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?



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!

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!

Katie Superstar

Katie's having a sensational week. Yesterday she was awarded her Bronze level certificate in ice skating. That's her ELEVENTH skating certificate in nine months. We are staggered.

Also this week the head teacher invited her to join the orchestra on the strength of her recorder playing abilities and she came in first in chess club. First out of about fifteen kids. First out of fifteen Year 4-6 children. She's in Year 3. And she's got the trophy!

We are falling-on-the-floor, weak-in-the-knees staggered. Mostly we are just so proud of how she's choosing to live her life.

Level 10!

Today Katie passed the Level 9 test for ice skating. There are only ten levels in the UK Learn to Skate programme. When she passes Level 10, she moves on to a bronze, silver and gold award. From that point on, she'd be in the bigger, competitive leagues. That's all a long way off, but the point is she's done all of this since September. She's amazing!

Katie's skating at Somerset House

Two short mobile phone videos of Katie skating at Somerset House last weekend. I think it's pretty obvious which one is Katie!

They're very short and more than a little bit rubbish. But doesn't she look good?

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