Sunday, October 25, 2015

the Joy of Finally Going To The Trouble Of

My to-do list is always a mile long.  I can barely get all of the "musts" done, let alone the optional "but it would make me happy" stuff.  I typically find myself spending more money than I should on things that I need, because it solves the problem quickly.  It strikes me that you either need a lot of time, or a lot of money, in order to keep up in the crazy pace of America..  Or maybe you need better organizational skills than I possess.

Anyway, I often find that when I finally go to the trouble of doing some of the things that have been lingering on my to do list, my life is easier, lighter, better in some small way, and I think "why didn't't I do that sooner?!"

Which brings us to The Girl on TheTrain.  I have wanted to read it for months, but I refused to buy it, because we live near an awesome public library, and they had a million copies.  Only, there was a long wait list, and I hadn't figured out how to add myself.  And I hadn't managed to figure out the digital lending thing either (are you sensing a theme?).  But then I read this blog post by Julia, and I was inspired to try to finally get myself set up digitally, and it took all of ten minutes to set it up and put myself on the waitList.  And I was number two!  And time flew by, and now it's my turn, and with a quick click, the book is mine all mine.

Ten minutes.  Why didn't't I get to this sooner?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Festival

I had Friday off from work.  We had received multiple flyers touting the school "festival," which was also supposed to function as a fundraiser for field trips.  Of course, they only gave us about a week's notice, and they wanted us to make food.  Not just any food, but rather food that was representative of our heritage.  This amused me.  We are from northern New England.  What is our "heritage" food? Shellfish?  I asked the girls what they wanted to bring, and one said macaroni and cheese, and the other said cake, so that is what we brought.  Hey, it was homemade Mac 'n cheese!

We were also invited to a lunch with SB's class.  There were supposed to be games that you could pay to play, with morning events and afternoon ones.  Anyway, when we got there with our food, I discovered that only two people from Miss M's class had brought anything, and one item was fruit cups from the store.  There were few or any parents there.  sB's class was a bit better--most parents had brought something, but only three or four were actually present.  I began to wonder how the fundraiser was going to work, without parents present to pay for games.  It turned out that there were not any games.  The classes went into several other classrooms for a few minutes, but they did things like read books and watch a video about fall.  It was really disorganized.

Then we got to lunch.  In addition to bringing the food, we had to pay $7 to eat the food with our kids!  I was a little put off.  We were invited to a lunch and asked to bring something for a potluck.  Then, the teacher had our kids' art and photos everywhere, and she expected us to buy everything.  She went so far as to take the photos and approach me when I didn't immediately open my wallet.  I ended up shelling out $25 for the day, which was fine, but there are a lot of low income students at the school.  Our preschool teacher seemed to be driving the whole thing, and I don't know what she was thinking.  She also gave my husband a hard time for not contributing more.

Anyway, it was super disorganized, but it gave me a chance to see SB in school all day.  It was hard to see, but helpful.  She's not herself at all.  Rather, she was sad and anxious all morning, even with me there.  She was terrified that I was going to leave her, even after I had reassured her that I was staying all day.  She was a bit tearful.  In short, she was not my exuberant, happy handful of a child at all.  I quickly could see why.  Her teacher is cruel.  She's not working with her at all--she's beating her down.  At one point early on, SB didn't want to sit on the rug with the other kids, and the teacher told her that if she didn't behave, I was going to leave!  I was completely horrified.

In the afternoon, there were supposed to be more activities, but the teacher put all of the kids down for nap time, and then didn't wake them up for over two hours!!  It's no wonder SB has been up until 9 every night.  T had mentioned to me that the kids have still been napping at 3 a few times when he's gone to pick her up.  The teacher is clearly letting them sleep too long.  It certainly makes her job easier.  But SB hadn't napped in months before starting school, because she was not sleeping at night.

I kept her up at school, since I was there, thinking that the kids would only sleep an hour and we would do afternoon activities as we're on the schedule.  Nope.  The teacher had the kids sleep until 3, then woke them up when it was time to go home.  I would have just taken SB and left, had I known, but I also needed to collect Miss M, and her class was actually doing work.  Instead, SB and I read books and played games.  Finally, it had dragged on too long, and SB started to whine a little.  Her teacher started to lecture her.  I had had enough at that point, and I cut her off.  "She's bored," I said.  The teacher actually seemed surprised.  "Oh.  Well, she can paint."  So, that's what she happily did for the rest of the day.

I don't think I am capturing it well here--the teacher's indifference, her lack of patience, her sanctimonious lecturing of both T and I throughout the day about how she's using positive reinforcement and behavior modification "to great success."  SB is afraid of her.  Period.  There is no warm, nurturing relationship there.  I'm not sure what she is saying and doing when we are not there, but it is not anything a true professional would recognize as "positive reinforcement".  Her teacher, it is clear to me now, is a bully.

After watching the other kids all day, I'm sure my kid is her toughest.  She is VERY high energy (indeed, some of the other kids appeared lethargic in comparison--and this is a class of 3 year olds).  But there are a few other kids who are in the same realm, and it takes a talented, patient soul to harness and channel all of that energy.  Which she is not.  It's not so much, though, that SB is a "bad" kid (and I hate that word--these are three year olds!), as much as she is a busy kid who needs to be engaged.  Without a task, she can be unruly.  The teacher doesn't seem to grasp that.

Anyway, today the kids have no school, because we have parent teacher conferences.  I can hardly wait to hear what SB's teacher has to say.  I am still deciding how to approach it.  I think I am probably going to politely give her a piece of my mind, but I sort of feel like this may be beyond fixing.  The real problem is that it is next to impossible to secure a preschool slot around here, so we are lacking good options.  Plus, I love the PK4 and K teachers, so I wonder if we should ride it out and see what we can do to work with this teacher.  I'll have a better sense later today.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Hello There

Has it really been since July?!  What can I in America is so...busy.  At first it was nice to be back in the land of Target and jarred tomato sauce, but it's only been four months, and I am exhausted!  Our life abroad has such a different pace.  American work hours are uncivilized.

And things at home have been challenging.  sB has had a very rocky move.  LOTS of behavior issues...tantrums, screaming at us, hitting us.  It's been hugely distressing, and makes me so sad for her.  She was really starting to internalize that she was "naughty," because we were doing so many timeouts.  But then, mercifully, school started, and we signed up for a parenting class to teach us some new tricks, and between the two, it seems to be getting a bit better.

The only thing is that her teacher is quite strict, and she does not really like her.  It is really sad to hear a three year old tell me that she want to go back to her old school and old teacher in our old city. Which happens very frequently.  So, we are hanging in there for now, but I worry about her being the "bad" kid, even if things are a bit better. Her teacher is not nurturing at all, and frequently sends us passive aggressive texts about our parenting skills.  No joke.  She seems to think we neither discipline  nor use positive reinforcement at home.  Sigh.  I think she's kind of a jerk.  So, I'm contemplating moving her. I don't want her to develop a dread or dislike of school because of teachers who find her a nuisance, nor do I want her to internalize any more than she has the negative stuff about her behavior.  On the other hand, learning to live with a situation you don't love is an important life skill, and I think it is causing her to grow.  I just wish her teacher was more nurturing.  So, I go back and forth.  Given how much we move, I'm also reluctant to change schools again.  They've had enough change for this year.

Miss M appears to be thriving in her class.  Oddly, she's a bit behind in reading comprehension.  They recommended we read at home more, but we've literally been reading to her every day since she was a baby, so that's not the issue.  I guess we've never quizzed her on what she was taking away from the stories.  Once I started doing that, I saw their point.  She focuses on what is of interest to her, rather than what another person might see as the main plot. it's rather endearing, and I'm sure we can straighten it out in short order.  Otherwise, she's learning a ton and doing well.

And me...I really like my job, but there is too much of it.  I have not taken a day off since we got here.  Tomorrow is my first day off.  I'm going to the kids school for a festival.  It should be fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Slowly Getting There. . .But Getting There Nonetheless

I keep constructing blog posts in my head, but they never quite make it here.  I am so exhausted by the time I make it home, eat dinner, and spend a little time with the girls.  Things are manageable chaos, but chaos.  T leaves for work super early in the morning.  Right now, I get up around 5-5:30, shower (often with SB, who has discovered she likes the shower, and I can't fight with her at 5:00 in the morning), get ready, prepare dinner, eat breakfast, chat with the girls for a bit, and head into the office around 7-7:30.  I generally work like a demon all day, including through lunch (frequently skipping lunch), and haven't been leaving work until after 6pm, and sometimes after 7pm.  By the time I get home, my family has already eaten, and I eat and chat with them.  Rinse, lather repeat.

Work is fine.  I like it okay.  We'll see.  Sometimes it's really interesting, and sometimes people drive me nuts.  It's a job where everyone has their own agenda/remit, and it becomes the war of the just causes.  Really, I'm happy so far.  I'm just having a down day because someone was kind of a jerk to me.  I hate it when someone is a jerk.  Why is that necessary, especially when I am trying to help them?

The girls are doing better.  A few days ago, Miss M told me, quite seriously, that she doesn't want to move again--that if she makes new friends here, she doesn't want to move and leave them again.  It broke my heart.  She really misses her old school and friends, and talks about wanting to go back.  But, she is also quite happy here.  I think she misses having friends and being part of a posse.  Since it's summer and a lot of people are traveling, they haven't yet made friends that they regularly hang out with, and this is hard for her, especially.  We had some VERY challenging behavioral stuff going on for the first 6-7 weeks after the move, but now that the house is almost unpacked and we have something of a routine worked out, things are starting to even out.  Miss M was about SB's age the last time we moved, and I had forgotten how challenging that age (3) can be post-move.  They can't yet express their anxiety over moving (Exhibit A:  Miss M's current expressions of sadness), but it really impacts them.  We were having massive tantrums, hair pulling, hitting, kicking. . .awful stuff.

The bad behavior really had me questioning my ability as a parent. . .our ability as parents.  It was really, really challenging.  I did some reading, looking for what felt like the best approach, and decided that straight up behavior modification was key.  The advice I read suggested addressing JUST your most vexing problem (clearly, hitting/kicking/hair pulling--dear me!).  So, I got our nanny and T to commit to putting SB in short timeouts in her room with the door shut every time it happened.  It took a few days of being really consistent about it, but honestly, she's like a brand new person.  (She hates being alone in a time out.  It's literally the ONLY punishment that matters to her.)  Between settling into a routine and being really consistent with expectations and punishment. . .I feel like a slightly less terrible parent.  She was really starting to internalize her bad behavior ("I'm naughty"; "it's all my fault", etc--I have no idea where the "it's all my fault" came from, incidentally.).  But now, she seems to delight in delivering the news that she was good all day, and I am clinging to that.

T's job has been if not exactly what he hoped for, not entirely terrible either.  It is in his field, and I think it will grow on him, as he gets a better idea of what they want, and as they start to trust him.  It has been a transition, but so has absolutely everything that we've done over the last few months.

The house is ALMOST unpacked and set up.  We have a few more boxes, and two rooms (formal living room and the dining room) which are not set up yet.  But I'm almost ready to declare success.  The house is looking good.

We are getting there.  As soon as we feel really settled in this new city/house/schedule/life, school is going to start, and add a new level of complexity.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Favorite Children's Book That...

Has a good moral, teaches about a new subject matter, AND is fun to read?  What's your suggestion?

Currently, ours is "Rosie Revere, Engineer," by Andrea Beaty.  It has some really clever lines in it that speak to me, too, about dreams and ambitions.  It has a terrific message about trying again after you fail, and features a girl engineer.  And it is fun.  So fun.  My girls ask for it almost nightly.

But we're looking for other great books.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Settling In

For me, the worst part of moving is what I think of as the "in between" part--the packing up and saying goodbye and moving and unpacking and setting up and starting.  It's all chaotic and kind of unpleasant.  I'm in the tail end of the process now, the unpacking and setting up.  In no particular order, and because I'm feeling lazy:

  • The girls, and particularly Miss M, are really missing their friends.  I think it's also structure and routine.  We are working hard to create new routines, and thankfully we have our nanny with us, so there is that continuity. But I still haven't found the box with art supplies and we haven't made any neighborhood friends, so it's still a bit hard.
  • Our house looks like the inside of the kitchen junk drawer.  We had the worst movers this time--they were dumping boxes upside down and leaving them.  It was a total disaster.  I had to ask them to stop unpacking us, and now we have mountains of boxes and piles of junk everywhere.
  • It's one thing when you have a place to put stuff.  It's another when you are trying to simultaneously paint and unpack boxes and rearrange furniture and decorate.  I hate unpacking.  Really I do.
  • My new job has been insanely busy.  I'm new.  No one should expect me to work this much.  Did I mention I'm new?  What happened to easing in slowly??!  I have missed dinner pretty much every night since I started a few weeks ago, and sometimes I miss bedtime, too.  That sucks.
  • In all seriousness, I like my job thus far.  It is challenging and interesting and I'm learning a ton.  But given how busy it is, the learning curve has also been steeeeep.  
  • It's really fun to be back in the U.S.  But also expensive.  I've been living a puritanical existence these last few years, compared to how much money I've spend this month alone.  Good lord.  I had forgotten that people shopped for sport.  And I'm only buying things I actually need!  
  • Groceries are insanely expensive here.  My grocery bill has doubled or tripled over what I was spending.  To be fair, all I bought in South America was rice, veggies, meat, and cleaning products.  Here, I am buying hummus!  And crackers!  And ice cream bars!  And milk that comes in big jugs!  In large part because I can, and it tastes yummy.  When you can't buy expensive processed food, you save a lot of money.  And calories.  I'm going to have to work on this bit.
  • Some of the house is coming together nicely.  The playroom, the sitting room, the kitchen and breakfast nook are all in good shape, and it's going to be a really great place to live, eventually. You know, when we finish unpacking all of those damn boxes.
Okay, I have to go do something productive.  Like sleep.  All of the chaos is making me EXHAUSTED.  Well that and the intellectual challenge and the small children who need the reassurance of my bed in the middle of the night.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The End of Vacation

We've had a whirlwind three weeks in America.  We started off in Florida; spent a few days in the mid-Atlantic region to pick up our new car, get the keys to the house that we are going to be renting for the next year, and inspect the other school that we were accepted into; drove up to New England in the new car and spent time with my husband's family; traveled to see my family for a few days; traveled back to spend a few more days with T's family; then drove back down the eastern seaboard yesterday and the day before; and spent all day today cleaning/unloading furniture from the Uhaul (it had been in storage in New England).  And, I start work tomorrow.

Florida was a lovely relaxing time, but we planned to spend way too few days there.  We were trying to cram a little family time into our "vacation," before running around to catch up with family and friends.  If I had it to do over again, I would have cut that part, or extended it and made it longer.  Longer wasn't really an option this trip, because of other obligations, but the last three weeks have been so hectic that I can't wait to start working again.  It will feel relaxing!  But the kids had a blast, and that is what really matters.  We gave them a really magical three week vacation full of memories, and that is what I wanted for them.  We had pool days and Disney days and days with friends and lake days and beach days and days with both grandmothers and visits with grandfathers and favorite aunts and cousins and museum trips and zoo trips and a trip to my favorite childhood candy store (it's now Miss M's favorite, too--the giant array of penny candy sealed the deal).  Miss M has really blossomed during this time.  She is having such a blast, and she is such a joy--so happy and full of curiosity about the world, and so eager to share her theories about how something might work or how something might have unfolded.  I love it. 

SB has been her cheerful, if challenging, three year old self this vacation.  She is vibrant and happy, and constantly sings and dances.  The arts-based preschool we had her in while in South America was really good for her.  She is constantly coming up with a dance routine or a new song.  It's really cute.   Less cute is the penchant for hitting that she seems to have picked up for an older boy in her class.  Any time she doesn't get what she wants, she turns into a little caveman.  It's all about the brute force, and her tantrums are epic.  We've tried every punishment under the sun, and the only thing that works is kindly, calmly, picking her up and putting her in a room by herself.  It's no easy feet, with her flailing arms and legs.  She literally pinched me, pulled my hair, slapped me and kicked me while I tried to pick her up the other day.  I was so horrified.  Now that we are back in our own space again, we will definitely be focusing on working with her on her behavior.  I know she understands that it is wrong, because she changes her tune very quickly after being put in another room by herself, and settles down and becomes compliant.  Sigh.  She is such a love, and so very sweet and charming.  But  as my mother says, when she grows those little horns, watch out.

This next thought is probably worthy of another post entirely, but I'm short on time, so I'm going to dump it here.  We had a chance to tour the second school that we got into, after they agreed to extend the deadline by which we had to respond.  I specifically told them that I wanted to visit the classrooms where my children would be next year.  Honestly, I expected to love this place.  It has a lot of hype surrounding it.  When I got there, I didn't love it, though.  I thought it was indeed a nice little school that's trying to do some good things, but. . .that's it.  The school we have already enrolled in had more resources, bigger classrooms, and a nicer physical plant.  And, despite my request to see the classrooms, they told me they were doing work, and I couldn't see them.  Argh.  But in the end, even that did not matter, as I just was not terribly swayed.  Academically, I discovered that there would be mostly a new crop of English speaking kids in Miss M's class (with no prior Spanish), which I thought would hold Miss M back, since her Spanish is way ahead of where the class will be (in the school she's in, pretty much all of the kids have been in for 1-2 years already, and/or come from native speaking homes).  While the new school was a bit more diverse than the school we are currently enrolled in, it was strangely not as diverse as I had thought it would be.  And, I hated the location.  It was much less convenient than our current school.  So, we declined to enroll.  

Finally, I am wrapping up a course of antibiotics.  About a week into our vacation, I got a sinus infection.  I tried to use a neti pot to get rid of it, to no avail.  Antibiotics can really do a number on my digestive system and kick into gear some other problems I have, so I really try to avoid them.  But after two weeks of misery, I finally broke down.  Little by little I am getting better, but I am still a fountain of yellow snot, and my nose is peeling from blowing it so often.  JUST the impression you want to give on your first day in a new job.  And with that, I'd better go to bed.