Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New School!

First off, a given:  I can't find the camera cord.  Go figure.  We had two, doubling my chances of knowing where it was, but then the dog chewed one, so now I have to remember what safe place I used to stash our remaining cord.  So, pics later.

We switched schools for Elizabeth this year, into a Spanish immersion bilingual program.  The school is new, and is in a one year temp space, so there have been lots of worries about it.

To give her a lot of time to get accustomed to the idea, we started talking way back in the winter about how she'd go to a new school this year, and she was quite eager to make a change.  Until suddenly, in the middle of summer, she realized it meant she would not go back to her old school, and she decided she would NOT go to a new school this year. End of discussion.  She was adamant.  No, I am not going to a new school.  I will not do it.

So we've been talking to her a lot about it, and encouraging her and just generally being supportive, and she finally admitted she was scared about the Spanish part.  I'll admit that Rich and I are not fully committed to bilingual education.  We have worries.  First, while I took two years in high school and 1 in college, I have very limited spanish, and Rich has none.  So not sure how much we can help her, particularly if we stick with this into older grades.  Second, while research says kids do well in the long run, it can be tough in the immediate term and short term.  In the near term, kids struggle in the first few months - and maybe all year - to grasp the other language.  It's a big change.  Second, if they're struggling with the other language, how much content are they learning, especially if they are only learning content in their english classes.  While most studies show that years out kids do well academically, the first few years they may be behind other kids.  So, risky.  But, as we've long said, Elizabeth has a real skill as a mimic, and has always been advanced verbally.  So we've decided the risk is worth it, at least for one year to try out and see.

Anyway, the school did a great job in prepping parents and kids, and had numerous playdates and info sessions where kids could meet teachers.  The K teachers - both spanish and english - seem fabulous.  I had finally gotten Elizabeth to agree that she would attend the new school, but only the english parts (this kid is a good negotiator, I'll give her that).

The way they do immersion is that there are two K classes.  Each day, one is in english all day, and the other in spanish.  And then they alternate days.  This is another potential downside - hard to build momentum in any one area, and while the kids themselves can bond as a group, they have two groups of teachers to bond with (ugh, and now to I have to buy two sets of teacher and aide gifts at the holiday and end of school year??).  It's not a close one on one with one teacher type of model.  Also, the spanish teachers (who are fully bilingual) are ONLY speaking to the kids in spanish.  In fact, they are telling the kids the teachers can not speak english, though they understand english.  As a parent, if you don't speak spanish, and you have a question for the teacher, you can grab a translator, or you can make an appointment outside of the presence of children to discuss it.  And then, the Friday before school starts, they sent out class assignments.  And guess what?  Elizabeth was assigned to spanish first day.  Yikes.  I told her as matter-of-factly as I could, without fake-y enthusiasm that I knew she'd see right through.  As expected, she flat out rejected it.  Nope.  Not going.  So we just let it drop, as it's hard to negotiate with a flat out rejection.

So, first day of school and we're all up and out by 8 am, and after a fairly lax summer it wasn't easy.  But we made it.  Made the drive to school, and she was actually cautiously excited.  We walked into the spanish classroom, and the teacher immediately warmly greeted her by name and said some welcoming words in spanish.  The one thing I will totally give these teachers is that they are AMAZING at speaking a foreign language and using body, face and inflection to completely convey meaning.  She asked (in spanish) Elizabeth to hang up her backpack, and put the requested school supplies in an specific area.  The room was crowded, so Rich was close by and he was confused about what to do, and Elizabeth told him what to do.

Other kids in her class were coloring, so she immediately joined in and seemed engaged. So we took advantage and all hugged and kissed her goodbye, and walked out.  As we left the building, Andrew suddenly said, I want my sister.  Sweet boy.  I think this may be hardest on him.

I worked from home so I could do pick up, and when I walked into the classroom at the end of the day she was completely engaged in animated conversation with a boy in her class, and the teacher had to go to her and point out I was there.  She told me she had an awesome day, that the teachers understood her when she spoke to them (obviously a worry we hadn't considered she would have), and even better, the work was 'easy' and that the teacher held up her work for the class first to show what a great job she had done.  Bottom line, she was really, really happy.

Later that night, just as she was going to bed, as I was tucking her in and turning out lights, she told me she was just a little shy about speaking spanish and might just wait to do that.  But then she said, 'no me gusto' which means I don't like.  I could not figure out why she was saying that, but she clearly had picked up on it.  Then she started saying made up words (she told me they were fake words) in a spanish accent and moving her hands in a descriptive way (fairly obviously mimicking the teachers).  So somehow, I think this is going to work out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Easy living, part 2

This morning I posted the list of what we did this summer, but if I had written that list in advance, what else would I have included? 

  • Have dinner parties and see more old friends more regularly.  Epic fail.  Didn’t have anyone over for dinner once.  (We did host a super fun surprise b-day party for a friend, but her husband organized the whole thing.)  Never even made my favorite summer recipe, grilled marinated shrimp.  Heck, when it comes to cooking, we haven’t even made pesto! But there’s still time for pesto.  And since every fall weekend is going to be taken up with some sort of class or sporting event for Elizabeth, we should be around to invite people over. 
  • Camped more than once.  Also a fail.  We did the one trip, and it was so hot and buggy, and we’ve been so busy otherwise, we haven’t been inspired or found the time since.  Although I am a coastal plains kind of gal, I suggested to Rich we try camping in the cool mountains.  Maybe another year.  We might be able to get some mountain time in the fall with a football game or two or three in Charlottesville, and while that’s great, but it’s not the same as escaping from the heat and humidity and heading to cooler weather in the summer.  Actually maybe next year we will combine seeing old friends with camping in the mountains and maybe travel to WVA and see some old FSU friends?  Perhaps an FSU friend reunion should be on the list for next year.   
  • I’d have put see 3-4 Nats games on the list.  We managed one, and there’s still a chance to sneak in another, probably, but that’s likely it.  Last year we managed to make a few of the 4 pm games, but this year the Nats had no games starting at 4 – the 1 pm starts interfered with Andrew’s nap, and the 7 pm starts are rough on the bedtime schedule.  Not family friendly Nats, not at all.  Fingers crossed for half dozen scheduled 4pm games next year. 
  • We mooched off a few friends’ pools, and hit up one of the DC public pools, but I definitely wish we had gone more. 
  • I still want us to check out National Harbor.  Although sited at the conflux of two rivers, DC does a terrible job of taking advantage of river views.  We did one of the little Potomac cruises, but I’ve still got National Harbor on the list. 
  • Garden.  Another epic fail.  Luckily Rich’s sister gave us some small basil plants that are flourishing, and most of our perennials are doing ok, but there are too many weeds and not enough flowers.  We’re a little unkempt.  I’ve twice seen one hummingbird on our honeysuckle, but I’ve also fallen down on the bird feeding.  Oh well, there’s always next season, as I say every year. Turns out gardening is something I really, really value in concept but absolutely despise in execution. 
  • Picnic.  Another epic fail.  Not once.  I envisioned us packing up a picnic and heading to the zoo or rock creek with bikes and scooters and spending a fun evening outdoors.  Nope.  No concerts in the park, no outdoor movies, no let’s just have a picnic ourselves.  This is tied into gardening – maybe some summer we’ll upgrade our backyard patio and actually enjoy nights out there.   
  • Plan my high school reunion.  As my friend Doug said last time I saw him, when we were elected class officers 26 years ago no one told us it was a life term.  But in reality I’ve just fluttered around the past few reunions so it is time for me to do the heavy lifting.  Current plan: Thanksgiving weekend. 
  • Blog post our adventures in a timely manner.  Ha.  Hahaha.  What is worse that epic fail?  

So, a lot we didn’t do.  But I have no idea when we would have fit any of it in!  How was your summer?  Did you do everything on your list?  What’s on your fall list?  

And the living's been easy

Wow, so how is it possible that summer is over?  OK, well, back in my day, school did not start back up until the day after Labor Day, but today, in DC, school starts two weeks before Labor Day.  Two weeks.  Cutting summer from a brief 10 weeks to an impossibly brief 8 weeks.  Hate.

Anyway, my friend Therese often does a list of things she wants to do during a season, and I was determined that I would do the same.  I suppose we were so busy experiencing summer, we never got to plan summer.  So instead, and since I haven’t documented any of it, let’s just see what we have done.  And just for fun, and to make sure I get it all in, let’s start  as far back as Spring break:

  • We went to Florida for Spring Break!  And my dad turned 70. 
  • Elizabeth’s school had their annual Mother’s Day program
  • Elizabeth’s dance class had their semester ending recital
  • We celebrated the anniversary of moving in our house
  • Elizabeth’s school celebrated May Day
  • We finished up tball season
  • We went camping with my brother and family
  •  Elizabeth’s school had their end of school year concert
  • My parents came to town
  • We kept our tradition and spent Father’s Day playing mini golf and eating at the golf course
  • Elizabeth learned to ride a bike
  • When my parents left, Elizabeth, Andrew, and I went with them and camped in the RV for 4 days, and Rich joined us the last night
  • With my parents, Elizabeth, Andrew and I toured St Michael’s, a place on the Eastern Shore I’d never been before
  • We spent the last day of that mini-break in Ocean City
  • Our street celebrated our first ever block party
  • We spent a long weekend with Rich’s parents, celebrated Rich’s brother’s birthday, and rode a real train
  • We spent 4th of July with our friends Frank and Rebecca, whose house provides the best ever viewing location for fireworks
  • Elizabeth spent 4 days with her grandparents
  • Elizabeth Andrew and I went to a kids concert at Wolf Trap
  • We spent a week with our friends Tricia and Chris and their kids at a beach rental in Chincoteague, and we hung out with Ryan and PJ and kids a lot
  • My sister visited, and we spent one afternoon at my brother’s neighborhood pool, and went to a Nats game
  • We went to Ryan’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party and spent time with other Pocomoke friends Doug and Lisa
  • We went peach picking
  • We checked out our local public pool with neighbor friends
  • We spent the day at the water park in Chesapeake Beach, thanks to a half price entry from Certifikid.
  • We took a short boat ride on the Potomac and then ate along the water
  • We got rained out of Bill and Ellen’s neighborhood pool, and had a fun dinner with them

The end of this week we’re off to Ocean City again and then….school starts.  Bam.  Summer over.   The next weekend we have friends in town, and then Labor Day weekend, which is filling up fast, and then double Bam, into an already overscheduled fall. 

But that’s not a bad list, huh?  The thing is nearly every bullet should be a blog post – I started at Spring Break to remind me of all the posts to be done!  Maybe, just maybe, I can finish out August with a flurry?  

It’s been a good summer – we’ve done a lot.  Sorting through, we’ve seen family, seen some old friends, kept up some traditions, and tried a few new places.  That’s not a bad mix.  

But what if I had done a list at the beginning of the summer?  How would this match up?  Stay tuned for part 2!  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You can't fool him!

Last night, I scrambled for dinner, and to round things out, decided to include a special item - olive spread on crackers.  I was smart, and divided the spread into two containers, and grabbed a couple of spreaders for each to use. 

Andrew was fascinated by the utensil:  What IS this? he kept asking, until he grasped I was saying "a spreader" and he could say it himself.  All good. 

Until he realized that in my haste, I had grabbed a spreader that had footballs on one end and given the football spreader to Elizabeth!  The horror!  What was I thinking?!  Well, I was thinking where the hell is the other plain spreader, and why is it taking so long to get the spreaders and so I just grabbed what was on top.  Of course, once Andrew saw the football spreader, he wanted it, but that just made Elizabeth clutch it ever tighter.  There was a brief argument, but it actually passed fairly easily and I thought I had dodged a bullet. 

Until I heard Andrew, who has learned faaaarr too much from his big sister, mutter quietly with a tinge of despair, "I hate this spreader." 

Trying to be clever and distracting and taking a page from Rich, I picked up the now-hated spreader and said in a high pitched voice, "oh Andrew, why do you hate me?  I am a good spreader!" 

But he wasn't having any of it - Andrew looked at the spreader suspiciously and rejected it by stating, "it doesn't have a face." 

In the end, though, perhaps it was mission accomplished as I burst out laughing at his logic that since the spreader didn't have a face it couldn't talk, and then Elizabeth also laughed, and finally Andrew laughed too, so that crisis, at least, averted. 

schools and stuff

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about schools. A LOT. An excessive, perhaps obsessive amount of time. The good news is we’ve decided on a school for Elizabeth next year – she’ll be attending a charter school that does Spanish immersion, and she’ll be in kindergarten. We think that the immersion portion of the school will be challenging enough that repeating K will not be a detriment to her, and re-setting her grade is something that, for a lot of reasons, we think is the right decision for her.

It’s really made us think about our own school experiences. That, combined with the recent bi-annual visit from the G-clan, along with Facebook and the whole host of school friends that have been rediscovered, plus my 25th reunion this year, makes me appreciate my friends that I have known since kindergarten and even before. The worry that kept me awake more than one night this spring/summer: by living in this city, and switching schools as is typically done here, am I robbing Elizabeth of the ability to have close lifelong friends? I know we’re not, really, but when you compare the stability of life in Pocomoke (which I pretty much hated growing up) with the transience of modern life in a highly transient city – well, everything looks dramatic at 3 am, doesn’t it?

Who will her – and his - friends be? Our neighborhood friends? From School of Religion? From my moms group (right sidebar)? From sports or other activities? All of the above? What will be our touchstone, the thing that really grounds us – and more importantly them – in the world?

There’s a lot of power in raising kids – choices we make now affect them far into the future. That’s an awesome responsibility on so many levels, with so much on the line. How do we decide which sports to sign them up for now – do we do dance or gymnastics? Can we buy a piano (and where will we put it?) to start piano lessons? Is E ready to move from soccer clinic to soccer league (which means practice during the week and a game on the weekend)? We did tball in the spring and there’s a fall league – do we want to do fall league tball or shouldn’t we do soccer? (why aren’t sports seasonal any longer, a trend that is making me crazy?) Right now Andrew mostly tags along on Elizabeth’s activities – once he’s doing his own thing, too, how will we divide and conquer various events, meets, games, activities?

And that’s just the next few years. We’ve made this decision to try bilingual education – what course does that potentially set us on? Will it spark interests in language, or different cultures? Or perhaps it will ultimately be a big turnoff? Will we stick with this school? What about middle school, high school? What about, gulp, college?

And you know what? One of the big reasons we decided on the redo of the K year? Because the thought of sending her off to college at 17 was simply too much to contemplate!

What crazy, irrational parenting questions keep you up at night?

The From Left to Write Book Club consists of over 100 bloggers who read books and then write posts inspired by the book (not a review of the book). This month's post was partially inspired by In Stitches, by Anthony Youn. I type 'partially inspired' only because I thought a lot about writing a particular story about my own high school experience and something my foreign exchange sister once said to me about cliques, but despite several hours of typing and retyping,  I couldn't get it to work out right, so I stuck with my typical kid connection.  Maybe I'll save that story for another time.  But this was a funny, engaging read that I happened to read right after Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and I was struck by similarities between the books (though Youn is Korean), and some of my own upbringing (soon after the Tiger Mother controversy erupted, I was talking to my mom and asked her why she never told me we were Chinese?).  As a book club member, I was given a free copy of the book, which I would love to pass along as a good read to anyone who wants it.