Archive for August, 2010

game on!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I have no idea what came over me today. Instead of returning Kaitlyn’s overdue library books and admiring plants at the nursery you pass on the way there… I sat at home and made a board game to help Kaitlyn with her studying.

First, let me say that I deserve no credit for having a clever idea. I read about it in a magazine that’s usually filled with crafts I’ll never make and cakes that Chef Duff would find challenging.

I made four stacks of cards. Yellow are spelling words; blue are reading words; green have math problems; red are the sillies. Because I figure I’ll be lucky if she even tries the game, there has to be something fun in it. So I made a stack of cards that have instructions like “hop on one foot 20 times” or “do 12 sit ups” or “wiggle your ears.” I also drew out a board with colored squares and a few roll again blocks or jump to such-and-such a category spots.

The one thing I knew would be a problem but I have no solution for is this. Who is she supposed to play with? Even I can spell the words on her list and do the math problems without using my fingers even. Not that she can quiz me on my spelling since she can’t read the words to me. After a while, she gave up on even trying and just told me that I’d have to guess the word. With no clues. While I wrote the cards and know her spelling list and could probably manage to guess, I lobbed out wild tries just so it would be her turn again.

We actually played two rounds of the game. I think she might play it again. I think it might work. A little bit. At this point, it can’t hurt!

tough question

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This morning over her bowl of Cheerios, Kaitlyn asked me what she’d done to make her daddy so upset with her last night. She didn’t understand what had happened or where her mistake was. Her hurt was as clear as the blue sky outside.

I had to explain to her that he is upset because she is behind her classmates in school. And that while it isn’t a competition, she is expected to be able to do more than she can right now. And that we aren’t mad at her. And that we’re here to help her. I hope she understands.

sometimes, reality bites

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

“I guess this is the depressing part of repatriation.” That is how Bill summarized Back to School night at Kaitlyn’s school.

It wasn’t because of his wife’s Marsha Brady-like fascination with signing up for every activity. (Which I didn’t do, by the way. I just entertained the idea long enough for my senses to take over again and make my hand drop the pen.)

It wasn’t the half hour spent crammed into a tiny chair at “Camp Learn-A-Lot.” That’s what Kaitlyn’s teacher is calling her class this year. Every class has a theme. I didn’t bother to check out the others on my way through the hallway.

The hallway.

That was the problem for Bill.

Hanging outside each classroom: the requisite variations on “what I did this summer” projects done by kids in the first four days of school.

Bill had gone to the first session with Kaitlyn’s teacher while she stuck with me around the sign up sheets.

When the principal announced it was time to wrap up session one and head to session two, Kaitlyn led me to her classroom. That’s where we found Bill standing in the hallway. Stunned. I mean, he looked stunned. A mixture of anger and frustration and sadness. Not realizing she was pointing to the very thing stirring up this cocktail of troubles inside her dad, Kaitlyn proudly pointed to her construction paper “sleeping bag.” Decorated on the outside with, I suppose, things she likes. I remember seeing a peace sign before she opened it up to reveal the utter nonsense written, no, scribbled inside. All the other sleeping bags were filled with neatly written sentences. That made sense. Shakespeare isn’t among her classmates. But all Bill could see was that his little girl had completely missed the mark on the assignment. Because she obviously simply couldn’t do it. “I wrote all the words I could think of!” she proudly declared. This did not help.

Bill tried to talk to me right there about his frustration, but to me that seemed like the wrong place for the discussion and I suggested we talk about it at home. So he and Kaitlyn headed off while I attended session #2 with the teacher. Little did I know that while I was stuffed into Kaitlyn’s Kaitlyn sized chair listening to the speech about second grade, Bill was home stewing over what he’d seen.

This is not to say that I wasn’t upset. Quite the contrary. I nearly burst into tears sitting there. And not because of the chair. As I walked up at the end to introduce myself to the smiling Mrs Philips, I had to take a moment to compose myself and work to keep my voice from cracking. And it may have, I don’ t really know for sure. Talking to the teacher made me feel better. But I still wanted to cry when I got to my car. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to learn that your child is struggling and is so far behind where you think she should be. (And where the education system thinks she should be, too.) It’s hard to separate the achievement from the ability. The actions from the intelligence. And it’s hard to separate what you as a parent should have done from your own feelings of self worth. And, man, that sucks.

getting involved… slowly

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Went to my first PTO meeting. I figure I should get involved in Kaitlyn’s school. Partially because she so desperately wanted me to volunteer last year and I was just plain too chicken to commit to trying to understand her teacher and her classmates. And partially because I figure since I’m not working, I should do it. So the moms who are trying to juggle work and life don’t also have tons of school duties piled on, just because they aren’t new.

The meeting started with everyone introducing herself. (There were two men there: one dad and the principal) And 97% of the group was the mom of a kindergartener. It sort of troubles me that the parents of older children who’ve been at the school a couple of years don’t feel the need to participate. Hopefully they were just busy with sports or something. But I get the feeling that this is how the meetings go. New people show up at first. Then fewer and fewer. Until the organizers of different events are just begging for volunteers any way they can, since none are at the meetings offering up help. Not that I actually volunteered to do anything. The sign ups for helping out in the classrooms are tomorrow night at Back to School night. I’m holding out for that. I figure helping bake cookies or buy crepe paper for a couple of classroom parties is a good way to ease into the whole volunteering at the school thing.

The meeting included a treasurer’s report. Which, frankly, I didn’t quite follow. I’ll blame the poor quality of her print out. The school counselor talked about her role with the students. We heard about a school art project/sale that they desperately need someone to take charge of. There will be a culture-fest during which I do not plan to do anything French. (I was sitting there thinking that after nearly 4 years in the country, I have sadly little to offer up. Unless I can find a raclette machine. I could make raclette. And paper fish for the kids to stick on each other’s backs.) Then a woman with an undefined role tried to give a demonstration of a new volunteer organizing website they want to use. And she wasted, er, spent easily ten or fifteen minutes trying to get this site to call up what she wanted to on the computer screen for us to see. I nearly stood up and yelled “Just describe it! We’ve got imaginations!” I kept my mouth shut. So by the time they got to the part where one gives input and ideas, well, we were out of time. Suggestion for next meeting: start with that. It seems the most important.

I suppose I will keep going. And eventually I won’t be able to bite my tongue and I’ll end up in charge of something. That’s usually what I do.

Wish me luck getting to the sign up sheets early enough tomorrow to get to volunteer for something good!

unfounded fears?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

During her extra-long-super-extended summer Kaitlyn admitted to a couple of fears about starting a new school… in a new country.

First, she said she was afraid she wouldn’t make friends. This is a child who will talk to anyone. And does. She is only shy around adults. And even then it’s temporary. I do think that making friends is harder than she’d probably hoped it would be. Saturday, the PTO held an annual ice cream party on the playground. Kaitlyn was so worked up about going. So excited about showing off her new school to Mom and Dad. And once we got there, she clung to us. Said kids were being mean. Said she didn’t have any friends. I don’t know any of her classmates. For all I know, she really was the only kid from her class who was there. Still, I imagine that making new friends isn’t going to be as difficult as she feared. Or as she tried making it out to be Saturday. Give it time. I mean, she still can’t tell me the names of the children who sit next to her in class. It will take time.

Second, she was terrified of the lunches. Everyone had told her that the lunches would be gross. Horrible. Especially in comparison to what she’d become used to. Think about it: she used to eat four course meals served to her at the table. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten a public school lunch but I’m pretty sure I can imagine what it’s like: a long line to get a meal that’s in a little tin like you get on an airplane and about as good.

Her first day, I packed Kaitlyn’s lunch. Mac and cheese. Tomatoes. Yogurt drink. Sugar cookies and a cute little note. At the bus stop, an older boy said “Are you crazy? It’s chicken nugget day!” (Far cry from what her fellow students could have said to her last year. “Are you crazy? It’s roasted veal stew day!”) When she got home that day, I was not thrilled to see she hadn’t touched her mac and cheese. She’d been too nervous to eat breakfast. How did she not crumble into a hungry mass of tears by the afternoon? After a while, I spotted some weird stains on her shirt. Didn’t look like paint. Dark red, but not blood. That? Oh, that’s barbeque sauce. From the chicken nuggets. Kaitlyn had decided to buy her lunch that day. And supplement it with the tomatoes and yogurt she’d brought. She bought her lunch the next day (pizza. She didn’t notice it was whole wheat) and today (ravioli with meat sauce). I asked her if the food is good and she said it certainly is and that it must be because her school has hired French chefs to cook American food. I don’t know if she really likes the food, or if she just likes using her little plastic debit card to pay for it.

not off to a great start

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Kaitlyn came home from her first full day of second grade extremely grumpy.

The moment she stepped off the bus, she smiled and said “Mommy! I had a great day!” And it went downhill from there. Quickly.

First, she explained to me how lunch works. You pick a hot or a cold lunch. I said, “so the hot lunch is the lunch you buy there?” No. She swears it isn’t. I don’t know what she thinks the hot lunch means. Does she think they have a row of microwaves for kids to use? I can’t get her to answer me. She just yells at me that I don’t understand and slams her little hand on the table. Bottom line is, all she’s eaten all day is tomatoes, a yogurt drink and a cookie. She didn’t touch the macaroni and cheese I packed for her. This is not good. This is a problem. Someone should have helped her. I’m not there. I’ve never been to her elementary school. But I cannot imagine that she’s got this quite right. Yes, she’s used to being served her lunch like she’s at a restaurant. But she’s a kid. She’s adaptable. Isn’t she?

Then I took out the one sheet of paper in her folder. It was a page titled “get to know new friends in second grade.” There were a few rows of boxes and each box had a description like “has a pet dog” or “is an only child” or “wearing something blue today.” A couple boxes have names scribbled in them. A couple seem to have the word “no” in them. She asked me to read it to her. I said we could read it together. This initiated a complete meltdown. She hollered that I don’t understand that this wasn’t a reading assignment and that I must be crazy and she stomped off.. stomping all the way up the stairs and through the hallway. And I must be the one who is crazy? Once she calmed down, I asked her to explain to me how this worked in class. How did she know whose name to put in the box? How did she know what each box said? Because certainly “has a dog” is something a second grader would be expected to be able to read. I still have absolutely NO IDEA how this exercise worked in class. NONE. Mostly, I know that I am apparently crazy for even asking.

I was so looking forward to Kaitlyn going to school in the US. So looking forward to understanding her work and being able to relate to the classroom experience. But so far, I haven’t understood a thing. The one thing I do understand is I’m already afraid she is in over her head. And it’s only second grade.

staying at home

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Kaitlyn’s off to school today… her first full day of school here. And now I am officially a stay at home mom. A woman without a job, nevermind a career. Ok, I haven’t worked in more than four years. That is besides the point. Just a month after I stopped working, we started the process of moving to France. And I couldn’t work there. Even if I’d wanted to. So I never really thought of myself as a stay at home mom. More of a displaced worker, on a long sabatical of insane proportions.

Now? Now I’m a stay at home mom.

I made the beds. Cleaned the kitchen. Even washed the windows. Went to Zumba. Turned away a little girl who came to see Kaitlyn who looked like she thought I was lying when I said Kaitlyn was at school. (“But my school hasn’t started yet.” Well, goodie for your school, kid.) Swore to the exterminator that normally there are those annoying little red bugs (clover mites) in my bathroom but that they got the memo that he was coming today and all went elsewhere. Looked at fabric for curtains and, naturally, prefer the one that is $31 a yard. (When you need 18 yards, that’s rather a lot.) Goofed off on Facebook. Finally put some pictures that have been sitting around in little piles for weeks in envelopes (and addressed the envelopes).

Seriously? This is what a stay at home mom does?

No wonder scrapbooking and crafts are so popular.