Good things come in small packages

I was standing at the side line of the rugby pitch, reciting yet another group of boys’ names and reflecting on how much harder it has become to retain names as I’ve aged.  It’s been six years since Milo started this sport with Ripper Rugby, and I swear my memory at 34 was zippier than it is now at 40.  It’s extra tough when parents insist on giving their kids traditional names like Matt or Sam.  Give me an Aotea or a Manav and they stick, but the Tims and Georges get lost in the swarm with the Johnnys, Coopers and Bens. 

A whole group of new parents to meet as well, with the same conversation starters as always: “Which one is yours?” “Mine is Milo, the little one over there.” I’d point to the smallest striped jersey on the field, weaving and dodging energetically.  It’s fun to point out your kid when they’re performing well.

“Which one is yours?” “Mine is Milo, the little one over there.” I’d point to the smallest striped jersey on the field, weaving and dodging energetically.  It’s fun to point out your kid when they’re performing well.

I remember that first year, watching him stick out his jaw and set his sights on his target ball carrier from across the field, dig deep with his sprint, triangulate correctly and nail his target.  Milo is competitive.  Competitive, driven, focused, strategic.  Aggressive, unempathetic, relentless, determined…. you get the picture.  It’s in his DNA. Half of which is from me, I get the irony of my complaint.  Watching him on the sports field was an epiphany.  Right there in front of me I was watching the up-side of all those challenging personality traits. 

At the first game this season he was awarded Player of the Day for his relentless tackling.  “Why does Milo always get player of the day?” Naomi commented.  The coach overheard and asked, grinning “This isn’t a rare occurrence, then?”  No, it is not. 

Each year as the boys around him get bigger and bigger, I think it might be his last, that he might get sick of being flattened by kids that are literally twice his weight.  But he loves it.

It is the 6th season Milo has played rugby, and each year as the boys around him get bigger and bigger, I think it might be his last, that he might get sick of being flattened by kids that are literally twice his weight.  But he loves it. 

Other parents say he’ll probably hit a growth spurt eventually and rocket out of the 5th percentile, but I’m not so sure.  After all, someone has to occupy the 5th percentile; that’s mathematically how percentiles work.  I have occupied the 5th percentile in height for my entire life, and I’ve been imparting few tips for him to be comfortable in that space.

“It’s a lot more comfortable for small people when we ride on planes.”

“When you’re small, your height to weight ratio is favorable.  That means you can climb easier and run faster than big people.” 

“I watch you, ducking and weaving out there; being small you can fit through that maze of other players really well.”

“You know, Milo, it’s not all bad being small.  People will initially judge you based on your size, and then you have an opportunity to blow them out of the water.” 

He grins.  He likes blowing people out of the water. 

Sibling negotiations

Naomi:  You need to make it up to me!”

Milo: “How?”

“Figure it out.  Use your BRAIN,” she directed, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder and flounced out of the room, secure in her position of power. 

“Ha!” I thought, as I listened to the exchange.  “His little sister is providing him a good education about relationships…..maybe I should try that angle……” 

Milo had returned home Sunday even to a massive stack of circulars on the front doorstep, and he was angling for some assistance with his job.  He has had a job delivering these adverts weekly since last September, and he’s good at it.  He always remembers when they’re due to arrive and is conscientious about getting his deliveries done before the Wednesday night deadline.  He’s entirely self motivated on this project.  The pay varies widely week to week, depending upon the number and weight of the papers, but over the months he has amassed a few hundred dollars, of which he has hardly spent a penny.

The stack of circulars was going to be a big job to collate and deliver this week, and his brain immediately began to churn with ideas of how to ameliorate the workload.  He first plea for help fell on unsympathetic ears (mine).  “No, sorry Milo, that’s your job.”  His second try was to his sister, who is generally excited to be involved in her big brother’s paper route. She is also a good, energetic worker. 

Monday before school the job share negotiations started at $10 on Naomi’s side, and $7 on Milo’s side.  Jeremiah opined that $7 was an unfair proportion of the $30 Milo was getting paid for this week’s deliveries.  I stuck in my own oar in with a comment about how the job expected had to be clearly defined beforehand (unclarity around that issue was the root of last week’s debacle).  Negotiations were noisy and belligerent. They were not complete by the time I hustled the kids off to school. 

Now, Milo really wants help with this job, so after school the debate continued.  The price hovered as high as $10, and the deal was almost clinched.  Then Milo employed his typical power tactic, startling Naomi when she was washing her feet in the tub, and shoving her as she tried to leave the bathroom.  That behavior led to the exchange I overheard, much to my satisfaction.  Having to deal with a big brother like Milo will make Naomi a strong character, that’s for sure. 

Milo thought for a moment. I thought he might be pondering how bullying wrecks relationships and doesn’t get him the cooperation that he wanted…. “Hum, I guess I’ll try bribery,” he said. Not quite the strategy I was hoping for.

“Milo’s going to buy me a chocolate bar at the dairy if I help him with his papers,” Naomi announced, returning to the kitchen. 

“That doesn’t sound like a very good deal, chicky,” I advised, disheartened that she was so easily swayed by food.  “You don’t know if the chocolate bar he buys will be a little one, or a big one.” 

“Mom, don’t tell her that!” Milo was annoyed that I was interfering his negotiations when he had nearly pulled off a lucrative deal. 

Naomi thought for a moment, recognized the truth of the statement, and went back to the drawing board.

Shortly Naomi came back to announce THE DEAL:  Milo would buy her anything she wanted at the dairy for up to $7.50, in exchange for help with stacking, folding and delivering the papers.  I tried to tell her that payment in money was better, and that if she got money, she could go buy herself what she wanted at the dairy and probably have money left over.  She wasn’t having a bar of it.  Clearly, the lure of being able to command Milo to buy her what SHE wanted was worth more than actual money to her. 

I’m sure that point will not be lost on Milo, astute as he is in the ways of money, if not in the ways of healthy relationships. 

Incredibly, the rest of the afternoon has passed in industrious, cooperative activity. 

Capable Cake Maker

“Mom, I’m being responsible; I’m washing the dishes.” 

“Mom, I’m being responsible; I’m washing the dishes.”

Naomi was cleaning up from her cake baking without being asked, but wanted to at least make sure that I noticed.

Fair enough.

She had mixed that carrot cake after finding the recipe in my book and doing all the measuring and grating herself.  Bravo, you capable girl!

Naomi certainly IS competent, and independent.  Both the kids are, to be honest.  They get their own breakfasts, make their own lunches, walk to and from school, manage their personal hygiene.  They’re usually not big on clean-up, especially the voluntary type, which makes Naomi’s effort with the dishes even more impressive. 

Though sometimes I might feel that nothing gets done in the household apart from MOM doing it, OBJECTIVELY, the work load MUST have gotten less since they were babies.  No diapers to change or wash, no spoon feeding, no wiping snotty noses, no mid-night wake-ups.  That means that OBJECTIVELY, I must have more free hours in my week.  Probably I do have….not that I can figure out where they all go.

Or ELSE it could mean that my general productivity has gone down as I’ve gotten older…..which is also entirely possible. I call to mind a comment my father made some years ago, watching our active young toddlers. “There’s a reason you have babies when you’re young.”

Trot to the Pot

More than a year ago my sister Rebecca sent me words she wrote for kids book, for Emerson, our nephew. It was to be a potty training book. A hip-hop potty training book with animal characters….seemed like plenty of scope for fun illustrations!

I thought we’d be in plenty of time for the training period, but I underestimated the time it’d take to do the illustrations. He’s 2 and a half right now, so we’re done none too soon!

Covid Lockdown Round 2

Tuesday evening we were seated at the dinner table when Jeremiah read the news announcement—There was a single unexplained community case of Covid19 Delta variant in Auckland, so at midnight, the whole country would be entering 3 days of Covid lock-down. 

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise.  NZ had a travel bubble with Australia that had closed a few weeks before because of Covid outbreaks in Oz, and Kiwis were still straggling home on repatriation flights.  The government had indicated that this time, if there was a community case, there would be a swift lock down, as to date only about 1/3 of kiwis have been able to get vaccine, and the Delta variant is so very contagious. 

I sighed, thinking about the Rogaine I wouldn’t be doing on Wednesday night and the work trip to Nelson I wouldn’t be taking….but really, lock down isn’t that bad for us.  Besides, we had plenty of flour and toilet paper already on hand, so the only preparation we really had to do was to run to the bottle store for some of our favourite Malbec….and queue up along with every other kiwi in Halswell, apparently!

Day 1 was really frustrating.  The kids were “feral,” to use the kiwi term.  Both Jeremiah and I were trying to continue working, which makes for a situation where I’m neither a good worker nor a good parent. 

Feral kids live in boxes.

But by Day 2, the troops seem to have settled down nicely, playing independently and relatively civilly.  

It was gorgeous spring weather on Thursday, and kids are learning to be more independent on food (smashed avocadoes and crackers). 
After work I took the kids out to the park with the slack line, where we practiced our head stands. 
Thursday night Milo even invited Naomi for a sleep-over in his bedroom.  Snoozing didn’t continue as peacefully as it initially appeared, but it wasn’t a complete balls-up either.
Friday I spent a good while gardening, with Naomi’s help.  Spring flowers are starting in earnest, and we trimmed bushes and planted spinach seeds. 

 

Grape fine trimmings have been made into a rustic lighting feature for the living room.

Government news announcement Friday afternoon confirmed that more cases have been found in Wellington and Auckland, with close contacts of those cases also in the South Island, so lock-down would last at least until next Tuesday.  We kissed goodbye to the planned weekend at Hanmer.

Saturday the highlight of the day was the family touch rugby game we played at the local park.  We all played a game of Ticket to Ride, successfully and without tears, which is a major family milestone.  Jeremiah got fancy with the venison curry that he cooked, and we watched “72 Most Dangerous Animals” that evening.
The Staycation continued on Sunday, with a round of Orienteering at the local Halswell Quarry park.
Orienteering in the Australian garden, with bright yellow spring wattle in opulent abundance.
Sunday morning breakfast pizza!

It’s been 16 months since we had our last Covid lock-down in Christchurch, and we seem to have slipped resignedly into our lock-down routine much more smoothly than last time.  This time I’ve not got the angst associated with being a “nonessential worker.”  I’m still nonessential, but I can continue doing my non-essential role, at least partially, from home.  And this time it feels more like a snow day to me—an unexpected and (we hope) short hiatus from regular life and commitments.  A time to be treasured rather than fought against. 

Ages and Stages

Naomi is now 7 1/2 years old, and she fits perfectly into our new grape-vine porch swing.
With a Queenly attitude! Monarch of Castle Rock on a recent day trip during the school holidays.
We had lots of friends with us for the day at Castle Hill!
Milo is inspired by the Olympics to work on his weight lifting, and creative when it comes to making his own kit.
Milo was very excited to go skiing with his friends over the school holidays, and loves his new gear.
Jeremiah was also enjoying his new ski gear, when we went for a weekend to the hills around Lake Tekapo. He’s on back country skis, which means you only go down after you’ve walked up!

Heads up, Parenting Required

I don’t normally think to check the browser history, but this particular afternoon when I sat down to the laptop, there was a Google ad that made me curious what the person before me had been reading.  And Jeremiah was away on a work trip.

Milo’s internet history 8th April, 2021.   

First I laughed—my son has inherited my bad spelling, and apparently he couldn’t figure out how to spell “vagina.”  I’m sure that “virginia” was disappointing, and v-gina was probably puzzlingly devoid of the detail he wanted. 

Second, I realized that we’ve been launched into puberty, unawares.  At 10, Milo is barely taller than his 7 year old sister, but his mind must be where all 10 year olds eventually wander. 

Third, I reflected that I needed help.  Clearly Milo was curious about sex, and I’m all for supporting curiosity, but I want him to bring those questions to ME, not to Google.  He understands the basic mechanics of baby-making; we’ve been watching nature videos since he was a tyke.  Last year was the first sex ed unit at school, but his only real comment when queried about the class was to wrinkle his nose in disgust: “You guys had to do that twice!” We just nodded.  I didn’t feel ready to explain that in humans, the number one function of sex is not baby-making.

So I did what I always do when I need to decide a course of action.  I queried various groups of friends and relatives whose kids are a bit older than mine. 

First I emailed my Aunt and Uncle whose two boys are now young adults, and whose Christmas letter of many years ago had included a memorable episode about the oldest boy’s education on the subject of baby-making.  They suggested two books both by Robie Harris, the first of which is titled “It’s So Amazing,” followed by “It’s Perfectly Normal.”  They are matter-of-fact, colourfully cartoon-illustrated books with cheerful pun-loving characters.  Not available at our library, but available through Amazon. 

Second, I talked with an American friend who works with Jeremiah, and whose kids I think have “turned out” well.  The husband actually said that his wife had handled basically all of those conversations, and that he’d lend us their books.  The books that came home with Jeremiah the next day were the Robie Harris ones that I had been looking for, which was quite handy. 

I previewed them myself one evening, then presented them to Milo.  To my surprise he squirmed in embarrassment.  I thought he’d devour the books, but instead he just blushes and goes quiet.  Clearly he’s curious, but somehow he thinks he shouldn’t be. 

I decided I should normalize talking about body and body changes so I started to be chatty on the subject, inviting questions and comments.  Milo hit his balls accidentally while playing in the garden and was writhing around in pain, so I took the opportunity to talk about gonads.  It wasn’t much comfort to him to learn that his testicles aren’t even making sperm yet, in contrast to Naomi who has all the eggs she’s ever going to need already tucked away inside, waiting until puberty to finish their development.  Naomi, swinging on the ropeswing, was listening intently and piped up “But I’ve already pooped about a thousand times!”  “Pooperty” has become our standing family joke. 

In the end the only conversation that I was able to elicit was with Naomi.  For her part, she has realized that Milo feels squeamish about the subject and has taken it up as ammunition, declaring “I have a uterus!” in a loud voice whenever she feels she needs a one-up on her brother, who then turns red and disappears into his room. 

My other Great Source of Knowledge is my Tuesday night craft group ladies.  With a simple question I can survey the opinions of half a dozen women, their husbands, children, grandparents, friends, and distant connections.  The hostess has two boys, roughly 11 and 12 years old, and she told me about a series of podcasts that they listened to with each boy when they turned 10.  The format they used is to buckle father and son in the car, drive an hour south to Ashburton, then turn around and drive back.  The podcast series lasts for 2 hours, and the drive is timed to complete them all in one go.  It’s a series done by The Parenting Place called Big Weekend.

I love a good podcast, and these ones are really well done.  Part one has topics ranging from self esteem to forgiveness, while part two has topics about sex and body changes, each one a discussion between the two cheerful and surprisingly wise hosts that last 5-10 minutes, followed by one question for the adult and one for the kid.  I feel like taking notes, they’re that good.  Milo and I can sit and draw at the kitchen table while we listen to them, and I can tell he’s listening though he’s not very talkative.  The main limiting factor is I don’t have much time with just Milo (not Naomi), so we aren’t all the way through them yet. 

So now, we’re officially launched into “pooperty,” a new phase of life for parents and kids alike.  Milo has changed our names on the Netflix login to Poo 1- Poo 4, because……well, because poo is so terribly amusing for pre-teens. “Pooperty,” after all, seems a surprisingly accurate name for the phase of life we’re now entering.

Education for Life

Milo’s year 6 class is learning a practical life skill: managing personal finances.

The classroom economy works like this: Each student automatically gets $150 “classroom bucks” at the beginning of the week (nice classroom society, eh?).  They can earn $100-150 more by doing classroom jobs.  Good behavior at various points during the day is worth $1 per incident.  Good behaviors include tidying up, being “sensible” during silent reading time “showing 5” (all 5 senses at attention) when sitting on the mat, and demonstrating good values (care, resilience, respect, honesty).  Like I said, it’s the idealized classroom microcosm; I have yet to see good behavior lead to monetary reward in the real world.  Wifi, internet, furniture rental, and electricity are overhead expenses, costing $85/week.

Excess classroom bucks are mainly used to purchase free time or screen time, valuable commodities among the year 5/6 block.

They have even been doing job interviews for the various jobs in the classroom, some of which are worth more classroom bucks than others.  Putting chairs up and taken down, charging computers, cleaning out the cubbies…  There’s a CEO for each classroom service business, who get paid more for, in Milo’s words, “doing the exact same thing.”  If there’s an extra organisational component to the CEO job, the lowly worker Milo is unaware of it. 

He thinks he’s too cool these days to smile for a photo.

We were in the car the other day when Milo commented “I think Jack might get the job instead of me, but that’s not fair.”  I was aware that he was talking about his classroom economy, but I needed a bit more explanation.  He continued, “His friends are the ones doing the hiring, and he exaggerated on his job application.” 

I hesitated for a moment.  “That doesn’t feel very fair, does it?  You’d like to think that the best qualified applicant would get the job….but let me tell you something (here I adopted the deep measured baritone my own father used with me all those decades ago): The World is NOT Fair!”  

Mentally I added the “Princess Bride extension:” ….and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something! 

I continued my sermon: “In real life, having friends in a company does help you get a job, and apparently everyone exaggerates their skills on applications.”  I sat glumly for a moment, wondering what inspired pearl of wisdom I could impart to my son. 

Nothing came to mind.  I just shook my head, reflecting on my own frustrating job search. “It’s worth maintaining good relationships, isn’t it?” 

A week or two later Milo returned to the classroom economy.  “I’m the only one doing the chair putting-down in the mornings, because I’ve done the whole job by the time the others show up.” 

“Oh yeah? Do the others still getting paid for the job?” I queried.  It’s not easy to fire employees in New Zealand, and I wondered how the classroom economy would treat shirkers. 

“Yeah, they get paid less, but they’re still paid, because they still do the afternoon chair picking-up.” 

Turns out Milo gets $150/week in recognition of him doing the morning job on his own plus joining in the afternoon shift, and the other team members get $100/week for doing just the afternoon shift.  At the moment Milo seems content to get only $50 for the morning job, which would normally cost a CEO several hundreds of dollars in labour.  I’m curious what will happen in the classroom economy if Milo decides to be less industrious. I did not suggest this, as tempting as it was.

I’ve been trying to instate a household economy, with admittedly less success than the school’s. They earn a pompom to put in a join “account” jar whenever they do a job without having to be asked (brush teeth, empty dishwasher, take out compost, etc). In this economy, when the pompom jar is full, we go out for a family treat. Naomi is the motivated one. Despite the reward being a cafe treat which they are both clearly excited to enjoy, Naomi earns 90% of the pompoms in the jar. Not sure if this means that she’s highly food motivated, or more agreeable…..probably both.

On Aging…

I’ve finally left age 38 behind, good riddance.  2020 was hardly in the running to be anyone’s favorite year.  Now I’m 39.  A much more pleasing number, but we all know what looms next. 

As I’ve been pondering aging, there have been a few incidences that pull my self-image one way or the other….aside from the obvious mirror, which shows my first grey hair and the deepening furrows between my brows (stop frowning, Molly!). 

Old #1: Milo turned 10 last week. 

In his typical ultra-confidence stance, he’s calling himself a “pre-adult.”  Whatever.  We all know he’s only half way to adulthood, at the most.  But still, he’s a decade old, and no one would term me a “young mother” anymore.

Young #1:  We went to Jellie Park, a Christchurch Council swimming pool, one recent hot day before school started.  So did half the moms and kids in Christchurch. 

I’ve never seen a public swimming place in NZ this busy before.

We all wore our swim suits to the pool to avoid the changing rooms, me in my new pink-lined speedo which recently replaced my old sagging togs.  I staked out a section of grass by spreading out our towels, and went to swim a couple laps while the kids did the hydroslides.  Milo gets cold easily, and I found him back on the towels warming in the sun.  He glanced up at me in surprise as I plunked myself down next to him. “Oh, I thought you were some teenager,” he exclaimed.  Having spent the morning in close observation of body types of all ages, I’ll take that as a compliment. 

Old#2: I recently hiked to Lake Morgan on the west coast, and my quads were sore for a week afterwards.  Either I’m less fit than I used to be, or my body’s recovery time is increasing with old age….or both. 

I went with two friends, Carrie and Julia, who are both experienced trampers.
Mt O’Shanessy is marked on the map at 1462; not that high, objectively, even when considering that we were starting from only 200m above sea level. Carrie looked at trip reports from Remote Huts and DOC, and we estimated that the route would take us 6ish hours on the first day (pink line) and maybe a bit longer on the second day (yellow line).
We forgot that our experience is mostly with relatively “well-formed” tracks, not a luxury that the west coast enjoys much of. In typical rugged west coast style, the rough track went straight up the hill, and we were careful to always be on the lookout for the elusive markers.
Once above the tree line the markers disappeared, but visibility was excellent across the grassy alpine zone. The tops travel wasn’t as effortless as it sometimes is, and we were relieved to catch a glimpse of the hut on our way up Mt O’Shanessy.
We quickly scuttled the plan of getting all the way to Cone Creek the first day, and enjoyed the warm late evening light at Lake Morgan hut while we ate dinner.
Next day we set out at 7:00, made our way up and over into the next catchment (this view is looking backwards to Mt O’Shanessy).
I took a few opportunities to rest my legs while trying to get an up close picture of the sundews. I don’t seem them catching many insects.
This view is looking back up towards the ridge we just crossed. The cairn is marking the start of a cut trail through the bush; Lake Morgan is on the other side of the ridge under the cloud.
Then down, down, DOWN a long steep unstable scree shoot to Cone Creek Hut. I had been looking forward to a friendly loose slide, but instead we got a quad-burning skittery descent through angular schist. 

Fun fact: “greywackle” is the grey sedimentary sandstone I’m familiar with from much of the southern alps.  When it is deeply buried and heated, greywacke is converted to a flaky rock called schist. The western side of the alps has been uplifted more than the east, so the deeper layers that contain schist are revealed there.

We spent the rest of the afternoon trudging out through spectacular forest whose floor was made up of large boulders (up, down, up, down!), along with some kilometers of river travel, finishing around 5:30.

“My legs aren’t too bad,” I stated, optimistically massaging my quads.  “It’s the down that gets me.”  Even as I said it, I remember my grandparents saying the same thing, a fact that as I child I found frankly implausible. 

Young#2:  One day recently I was rounding the corner to meet the kids on their way home from school. 

I reached out to give Naomi a hug and she punched her head into my stomach with some force.

“Hey, careful with your old mazzer!” I protested.  “You’re not old!” Naomi rejoined, exercising her appreciation for precision and love of contradiction at the same time.  

“Thanks, hun.”

Old#3:  Milo was reading his library book when he picked his head up and fired out what seemed like a random question:

“What’s a phonebook?” I paused, speechless for a moment, visions of the ubiquitous sagging yellow and white volumes that used to live in every home next to the….landline….which, come to think of it, have gone extinct in most homes nowadays.

“Back when I was a kid—in the days before the internet, and before we all had cell phones—we used to have a book that you could use to look up people’s phone numbers by their last name.”  Describing it that way, the phone book days seemed very very long ago.

“Could you tear on in half?” he asked, and suddenly I understood the context of the question in relation to the comic book.  “No, not me, they were massive.” 

Young #3:  Actually, I can’t think of one.  I suppose that puts me squarely in the middle of old and young.  Embrace middle-age, baby!

If my teacher was a witch….

I picked up a flier at work a while back advertising a writing competition for kids.  A local author was launching a book on Halloween had organized it, and we handed it to Milo one evening.

“A competition….what would I get if I win?” he asked.  He’s Mr. Competitive.  You’d never get him writing a story just for the fun of it, but if given a challenge, he might rise to it….if the incentive was strong enough.

We read the flier more thoroughly.  “You’d get a book, and a book for your school library,” Jeremiah informed him.

“Hum,” he shrugged.

“I’d buy you pizza if you won,” Jeremiah offered.

“And I’d buy you ice cream,” I countered.

We both figured the chances were remote.

He perked up.  He likes pizza and ice cream.  He got several big pieces of scrap paper, folded them in half, stapled them like a book, and got to work.  For the next several afternoons he worked.  It’s amazing what incentives will do.

When he was finished Jeremiah suggested that he could type it.  He was surprisingly keen, and laboriously got to work.  A page in I offered to transcribe if he dictated, and that same evening he sent a Google Doc link to the author.  Such a Gen Z.

Here’s the story he produced (imagine colorful formatting added):

If my teacher was a witch

By Milo Shaw.

I was walking to school when I saw my best friend william. when we got to school I found a broomstick and a cauldron next to it and there were foot steps that lead to a cat. On Mrs Adams’ desk i saw lots of potions I reminded william that we had a reliever today. I took a piece of paper and drew a picture of the broomstick, the cauldron, and the cat. 

“I think that our reliever is a witch,” I said. 

“A WITCH!” shouted william. “I hate witches!” said william.

“What was that you said, Mr william?” said the witch. 

“um, no ma’am. I said that witches are cool, not ugly or anything like that,” said William.

“So are you the reliever?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” said the witch. “We are going to learn how to make potions.”

I had one more look around the  room to see if there was anything else different about the room today.  “Hey, look at the witch’s evil grin on her face,” I said to William. “I saw a bottle of  frogs on a shelf.” 

SHE’S GONNA TURN US INTO FROGS!!!”  said William.

set off to work.

When I was trying to catch them I remembered something that my dad told me.  He said “If you ever meet a witch, use its spells against them.” Ok, I will.  And then I quickly snatched the witch’s wand.

“No, you thief!” said the witch.  “Why should I have ever trusted you?  Please don’t curse me with bad luck forever.”

“Ok,” I said, “but you have to put my friends back to normal.”  “What was that you said, little boy?” and she turned him into a frog.  Then she turned everybody else except me into frogs.  

“I wonder what she’s going to do with me,” I thought.

“Hey you, with the brown hair,” she said.  

“Me?” I said.

“Yes you, come over here.”

“Um, ok,” I said.

“Would you like to be my assistant?” said the witch.

“Oh yes, please! What are we going to do next?” I asked. “Make a potion to heal my dad?”  

“Yes, yes we are, you read my mind,” said the witch.

“So what do we need?”

“Lots of frogs,” said the witch.  “Catch all of them!”

“But those are my friends,” I said.  

“It doesn’t matter about them,” said the witch.

“Ok,” and I set off to work.  When I was trying to catch them I remembered something my dad told me.  He said if you ever meet a witch, use its spells against them. Ok, I will!  Then I quickly snatched the witch’s wand.

“No, you thief!” said the witch.  “Why should I have ever trusted you?  Please don’t curse me with bad luck forever.”

“Ok,” I said, “but you have to put my friends back to normal.” 

And with that she clicked her fingers, and my friends were back.  

Just then the principal walked in and said, “Oh my word, how did I not come here first.”  He got his phone out and dialed 911. Two minutes later the cops came and arrested the witch, but no one knew that the witch had an extra wand.  With that, she turned the whole world into a giant frog. It kept moving, so when I fired the wand, the frog would move, so it hit something else and made that a frog.  One hour later the cops finally caught the witch and got her into prison so that she could not get her wand, because she accidentally left it in the car.  

The End. 

The writing was due 25th October, and he was immediately keen to hear if he had won or not.  He is an optimist, his father’s son!

It wasn’t too many days later that the momentous email came–he HAD won in his age category.

Milo: “I was surprised that I writted four pages,” he reported.  “I like writing.”

The competition was a book launch for the author, so she came to the school to present her new books to Milo and to the school library.  Quite a proud moment for an 8 year old.  He was chuffed!

Turns out the publicity of winning a writing competition–the author visiting one’s classroom–was almost as good as the pizza and ice cream. Almost.