Archive for September, 2010

Go team(s)!

Friday, September 24th, 2010

High school football is a big deal around here. On a Friday night, it’s the place to be. So this week, we decided to head to the local high school and check out the game. Kaitlyn has never seen a football game before.

It was packed. We parked a quarter of a mile from the stadium and hiked there… all the while I was wishing I’d followed a neighbor’s advice and grabbed a flashlight for the walk back at the end of the night.

And I have to say I’m impressed by the school itself. Beautiful new building. Good to see where our tax dollars are going. Strange to think that it very well may be where Kaitlyn goes to high school. We’ve never lived somewhere before where we could walk past a high school and think that. (We knew we’d move from Durham before she started school and in Wake County the kids are moved so much even the brand new school a stone’s throw from our house wasn’t a guarantee.)

We paid our ten bucks to get in and it was like stepping back in time 25 years. High school football games haven’t changed that much since the last time I attended one. Although I don’t remember my stadium having a shack selling sweatshirts and jackets with the school name on them. The school colors are maroon and gold; not a color combo you’ll ever find me wearing. But the thought crossed my mind that we could buy a sweatshirt for Kaitlyn. Before I could even suggest it (speaking of purchasing aloud would have made it impossible to then avoid), Bill was leading us to the visitor side. His former boss and current co-worker was there to watch his son play. We found him in the crowd, managed to wave and nothing more because it was too crowded. After a stop for popcorn and nachos, we went back to the home team’s side, only to find the bleachers had filled. Rather than squeeze ourselves into a seat (which was my assumption), we wandered around, standing along the fence to watch the game. It was ok, but it was kinda hard to see. Kaitlyn asked a lot of understandable questions about what was going on. She also cheered for whichever team was currently doing better. I told her you traditionally pick one team and root for them, thick or thin. She told me she’s just a kid and can do it her way. She will not be a good UCLA fan if she’s going to be that quick to abandon the team just to cheer for the winner.

By just before halftime, all that standing and not understanding was getting to Kaitlyn and she was ready to go. I suggested we stay for the show. The teenagers left their seats when the game stopped and we snagged a spot in the first row to watch.

When the band made its way out onto the field, Kaitlyn asked if there would be horses. Horses? (I’m not a fan of horses at football games, as you can imagine.) Horses. Like with the band at that castle in Italy. Band at a castle in Italy? “You mean the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London?” Yea, that one. No, no horses. And I guess that is the only other version of a marching band she’s seen.

Kaitlyn enjoyed the show. Bill spent it comparing the performance to when he was in his high school’s marching band. We also stayed to watch the dancers and then the cheerleaders.

Then Kaitlyn had enough. She didn’t care which team won, since she was rooting for both anyway. So we made the trek back through the dark to the car and came home. I think Kaitlyn liked her first football game. She’s determined “when she’s a teenager” to be the team mascot. An eagle. (There isn’t one now) So she has been practicing flapping her arms and squawking. Lucky us.

yellow day

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Discipline in Kaitlyn’s classroom involves a stoplight color system: Have a good day and you’re green, misbehave and you’re yellow, misbehave more and you’re red. Just a few days in her new classroom and I got a phone call from her teacher: Kaitlyn had a yellow day. Two in a row. After “flicking” another student with her finger. Two days in a row. And topping it off by sticking out her tongue to a little boy. We had a long talk with Kaitlyn and seemed to have put a quick end to the little missteps.

Till today.

I picked Kaitlyn up at her bus stop and she climbed in the car to go to tutoring. She said she had a great day. Then she said there was something she needed to tell me. She’d had a yellow day.

She told me a little boy had pulled up her dress. And that was why she got in trouble. No way, I said. There is more to this story. Way more even. “What did you do?” I asked. Kaitlyn insisted I guess. Hit him? No. Kick him? No. Flick him? No. Pinch? No. Spit on him? No. Stick out your tongue? No. I felt like I’d exhausted all my choices. “You’re forgetting one!” she said. I insisted she confess. “I pulled his pants down.” How could I have left that off my list of guesses?

Why didn’t she just get the teacher? There’s, of course, a good reason. The class was in line to go in from recess and she didn’t want to loose her place in line.

Everyone I tell this to laughs and says they understand her response and don’t see it as really that bad. After all, isn’t it good to stand up for yourself? And I do rather agree. Except that pulling down some kid’s pants isn’t met with enthusiasm by her teacher.

It’s hard to talk to your daughter about the severity of her crime when you aren’t so sure it really is one, either.

one of the hardest days I’ve had to face

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Dropping Kaitlyn off her first day of school was nothing compared to this morning. Her first day of school, she was three years old. We’d just moved to France and we’d stopped by the school to make sure they had all the papers they needed from us and to figure out when she would start. Kaitlyn sat down and refused to get up.

Fast forward four years.

Kaitlyn’s attendance at her school in France did not mean she got an education. I had my suspicions the first two years when the teacher’s assistant never bothered to learn how to spell Kaitlyn’s name. Which, really, is just plain rude. But I thought it’s just pre-kindergarden, it’s not that big a deal. It’s a language thing. I shouldn’t have let it go. Then when she got to the level of learning to read (in French), I was so caught up in making sure she knew how to speak French… shuttling her to extra French lessons several times a week… I didn’t pay enough attention to her English lessons. I also assumed that the English teacher would be giving them lessons at the same level as their American counterparts would be receiving back at home. Well, we all know what happens when you assume, don’t we?

If I could go back and deliver any message to Kaitlyn’s English teacher from the last four years, it would be this: Change your lesson plan. It is not on par with the grades here. And if a child is lagging behind, tell her parents. Don’t mention it in passing the days before they repatriate. It’s too late then. Way too late. (Yes, this is what happened to us.)

That’s how we got to today. The day I took Kaitlyn to school to move to her new classroom. In the first grade.

Last Friday, her teacher and principal met with Bill and I. They outlined for us how terribly behind she is. How much extra help they could offer her, but how much time that meant she wouldn’t be in her classroom learning the stuff the other second graders were learning. She’d basically be a second grader doing first grade work. That was when the principal said what Bill and I had been quietly debating all summer: she would perhaps be better off in the first grade.
I cried. Kaitlyn’s teacher cried. To Bill’s credit, he did not and has not since then said “I told you so.” (I probably would not have been able to resist.) But in the end, I had to agree. In the short and the long run, it’s best for Kaitlyn to take a step back in order to be able to run the distance. So to speak.

This morning Kaitlyn didn’t take the school bus. I drove her to school. The principal greeted us. Her new teacher smiled at me. Her old teacher came and walked Kaitlyn and I down the hallway. She pointed out Kaitlyn’s new classroom. She took Kaitlyn into her old classroom where she presented her with all the stuff she won’t need anymore. It reminded me of a funeral where the military presents the widow with the flag that had been draped on her husband’s coffin. (Ok, so I’m a little dramatic. But it’s what I thought of.) Then Kaitlyn went to her new classroom. She poured her supplies into her new supply box. Her new teacher said she’d get her seat when class started. I walked her down to the gym where all the kids gather each morning. They line up by class. I knew that Kaitlyn would sit with her new class and everyone in her old class and everyone she knows from the neighborhood would see her sitting there. And the thought of those other kids pointing and whispering or, God forbid, making fun of her… I had to fight the urge to burst into tears. Then her new teacher came in and introduced her to a Cate in her class… the girls sat down and started talking. Smiling. No obvious problems. So the teacher waved at me and I left.

I made it all the way home before crying again. I know what we did was the best thing to do. I regret what we did in France but I can’t change that now. Now all I can do is hope that the cruelty of children doesn’t play out in the next few hours and days for Kaitlyn.

enough of this self pity!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I’ve been wallowing in everything that’s not going exactly right and moping around and eating raw cookie dough to compensate for it and feeling generally miserable (probably because of the cookie dough). It’s time for this little pity party to end.

See, I got to thinking. There is actually a lot to be happy about. Maybe not hoot and holler and do cartwheels in the street happy. But happy. And to make myself stop moping and eating raw cookie dough and feeling generally miserable, I am going to make myself list out what’s fine. Or maybe even good.

I’ll start with the phone call I just took. Our furniture is in! They can even deliver it on Saturday! Yippee! No more old uncomfortable couch! No more fighting for a spot on said couch! And maybe getting the couch in the basement will spark Bill to take the plunge and buy the stuff he needs to set up his movie viewing down there. I am so excited, I’m sitting here smiling like a goofball.

We won’t be able to sit on our new furniture and watch tv unless Bill can get that fixed. But is not being able to watch tv really that horrible? This week while he’s been gone, I haven’t had to fight with Kaitlyn over watching tv during dinner. She’s actually had to talk to me. And it’s actually been pleasant. Yes. I miss the stupid tv. But I can still watch the one in my room. And since I tend to fall asleep watching anyway, this works out pretty well.

Kaitlyn is not behind in math. She is not struggling with math. She is bringing home papers with perfect and near perfect scores. She is embracing the challenge of the timed test (which always left me in tears the night before struggling to study for it) and this week improved her score by 50%. Holy. Cow. That is amazing. And that was before we even started the nightly flash cards.

Kaitlyn is not frustrated with school. Even though she is behind in reading, she is not letting that get to her. This morning when the school bus driver skipped us and I pointed out that the bus would not be picking her up, Kaitlyn said “but can’t I go to school?” And she meant it. She wanted to go. And driving her was ok. I got to see her go in and smile and feel so comfortable at the school she’s only known for two weeks now. She walked in like she’s been attending for two years.

Frustrated by some of Kaitlyn’s less than pleasant tendencies, I read a book on parenting. Among it’s suggestions: raise the bar. Expect more and you’ll get more. So I did. And it’s true. Last night she made me set an alarm clock in her room for her to use to wake up. And this morning, she got up, hit the Scooby Doo head so he’d stop barking and she got out of bed. So, she laid back down after going to the bathroom. She didn’t go back to sleep and getting her out from the simply-lounging-listening-to-the-radio position was far easier than the sound asleep position I generally battle. She’s generally more pleasant and more prone to actually do what she’s asked to. Without the eye rolling and moaning that used to go with it. And boy has that all made a huge difference with Bill gone this week. Huge.

I haven’t lost any weight since starting to go to exercise classes (ahem… raw cookie dough) but I am going. And feeling better. And enjoying the classes (mostly). And meeting people. And making friends.

When I vent to my blog, I tend to forget people actually read it. Although that is the point. In the last couple of days I was reminded of that when friends sent me notes of encouragement they thought I could use after they read it. They have no idea what that means to me. (Not that they read it but that they care enough to reach out and make sure I’m really ok. Maybe they’ll know now if they keep reading.) It was so good to be reminded that the strange life that is that of an ex-pat doesn’t just flash back to normal when you repatriate. And that others have gone through it and that same support I found in France, I can find here. A lesson I thought I’d learned there was that if you need help, ask for it. I’d started to forget it. Or at least discard its importance. I even consciously thought about this the other day. Still, it took friends reaching out to snap me out of the “I can do it all myself” two-year-old-ish approach to life.

We’re all healthy. (Colds don’t count.) We have friends. We’re close enough to see family more often now. And I’m not stuck at work covering Hurricane Earl.

uh… forget anything?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I have to be honest. The school year has not gotten off to a great start. I want it to have. I like to pretend that it has. Especially around Kaitlyn. I don’t want my little black cloud to float over her head, too. But, there it is.

Really, this morning was sort of the icing on the cake of a crappy week. And it’s only Wednesday. Leading up to hump day, we had: waking up at 4am Monday when Bill did so he could catch a flight that he missed (he caught a later one), going to turbo kick with a headache only to sweat it out in a room with a broken a/c, the tv in the family room stopped working yesterday. That’s not to mention last night’s homework. It took us two hours and we still didn’t get to it all. (I made Kaitlyn finish the last bit this morning. I am mean.)

Then came this morning. It was raining, so I drove Kaitlyn to the bus stop. Since the bus comes not especially near our house. When the bus was leaving the neighborhood just before us, the kids all huddled at their stop. And the bus zipped past our neighborhood. Again. The driver has made this mistake before. Last time the kids were on the bus and I can only assume they pointed out their desire to go home. Today there was no one there to point out her goof up. So she just skipped us. Never realized her mistake. Never came back to get the kids. Sitting in the car fuming, I called the school district’s main office. The woman took my name and number and said she’d “try to find the transportation director.” He is yet to call me back. Another parent who called actually got to talk to someone in that department and was told the driver said she just forgot and hopes not to do it again. I’ll just say, I’m glad she’s not a doctor.

I realize there are far bigger problems in the world. I’ve faced them. But right now, this week, with Bill gone, this was just almost more than I could take. Maybe a better response from the school district (like any response) would have helped.

Now I’m going to go to the Y to lift weights and hope that the a/c is fixed.