Everything will be different now

Jack is wandering around the living room. doing his weird Jacky things, and saying, "I'm practicing for kindergarten."

It starts tomorrow, but today we attended an orientation at the school. We met his teacher, poked around the classroom, checked out the other kids, and investigated the playground, the library, the computer room. When we asked Jack what he's most looking forward to, he said, "The bathrooms!" Okay then!

I sort of feel like his first day was today. Phillip took the morning off (he's taking off tomorrow too) and we all trooped into the school and met his teacher and sat in the tiny chairs while the kindergarteners sat on the rug and listened to their teacher for the very first time. There was no fear. I wasn't worried about him, but you still WONDER. One little girl was visibly nervous and one little boy sobbed the entire time (his mother was SO ANNOYED) but Jack got right in line and asked his typically bizarre questions (when informed that the playground monitors would be wearing bright orange shirts, Jack piped up with, "What if the sun is too bright and we can't SEE the bright orange shirts?") 

They shuffled the parents into the cafeteria and the principals gave us the low down on logistics while the kids ate cookies and drank juice provided by what was referred to as the "Not PTA". They call themselves "Family Group" because they're not all structured like a PTA, more laid back and easygoing and if this is actually true I might actually want to participate. 

But if I had a good experience on the school tour a few months ago, it was blown out of the water by the orientation. It's true that I am LOOKING for positivity, but I am also just so relieved. My whole [out-of-touch] vision of Catholic school or a "good" public school didn't materialize. I saw everyone's pictures of their kids wearing Catholic school uniforms on their first day last week and felt sad. I still felt anxious about choosing to send my perfect precious child to the run down neighborhood school, where full day kindergarten is free because the school is labeled disadvantaged. But I have honestly loved everything about it. His teacher impressed me right off the bat. Everyone was SO friendly and SO enthusiastic. The new principal made a point of meeting Molly and admiring her silver shoes (and showing off her own glitter TOMS). 

I've said this a million times - because I come from a family of public school teachers I've been feeling like I "know too much" about what goes on backstage. I want to feel good about Jack's class AND the principal AND the school as a whole. I may not "speak" teacher, but I totally understand it when I hear it and I feel like I need to know all of that stuff. WHICH I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW. As if I don't have enough to be anxious about, what with packing lunch and figuring out drop off logistics and picking out the Most Cute Outfit for the first day. 

So whatever, it's all good. I'm really excited for Jack. I'm excited for me! I'm having to stop myself from signing up for everything on the volunteer form, reminding myself that 1) I have a baby and 2) I don't even LIKE volunteering! 

Tomorrow we'll take Jack to his class, stick around for a welcome meeting sponsored by the Not PTA, and then (gah) I have to drive Molly over to PRESCHOOL orientation. (Her first day is Monday.) I feel like life just got super busy, and it's only going to get busier, huh? Now is when we start marking time by school years again, and wondering how our kindergarteners turned into sixth graders OMG SHUT UP, ME!!!


In which I start missing my five-year-old

I'm feeling like a bit of a mean mom tonight. The princess birthday party is tomorrow and when I envisioned this whole thing, it was all about Molly (OR OKAY, MUCH ABOUT ME) and how we would decorate and what we would wear and eating PINK things and DRINKING pink things and WHEEEE!!! I totally failed to consider the small boy who also enjoys cake and party games and, yes, princess dresses. 

To his credit, there's been no whining. Just a lot of anxious curiosity. He saw me printing out pictures for a game and asked me all about it, informed me he played the same game with Grandma, were we going to use candy at the birthday party too, was I going to make sure everyone could win, ETC. ETC. He wants to know about the cake. He wants to know who's coming. He wants to know if the cookies we decorated today are for the party. AND I JUST FEEL TERRIBLE.

I didn't have any qualms about a no boys allowed party, but I really did not think through how to PLAN a no boys allowed party with a boy hanging around 24/7. 

Anyway, the idea is for Phillip and his dad to take Jack out for dinner (he's requested the McDonald's Playplace, if you had any doubt) and to bring him back before the party is over so he can have cake at least. I'm starting to wish I'd gone along with Molly's original plan, which was, "No Mommy, we have to have Jackson, so we can have a Princess and SUPERHERO party." She was so much smarter than me. 

BUT WHATEVER! We have pink felt princess hats and heart-shaped finger jello and what better use for my parents' ancient Bavarian china, with the dainty pink rosettes and gold trim? 

This was a week I was worried about, what with No Plans and No School Yet, but it turned out okay. Despite the nasty cold I picked up yesterday, despite the never knowing what we were going to do each morning. Things worked out. And this morning Emma slept late, so I got the big kids ready and then when the baby woke up, we all went out for coffee and muffins for breakfast and THAT is why being a SAHM is awesome. You can just DO stuff like that. Sure, you're beholden to the baby's schedule and everything's a hassle with three car seats, but just sort of picking up and going wherever and deciding that on this random Thursday morning you're having blueberry muffins and hot chocolate for breakfast instead of staying home and eating oatmeal - it's not a bad gig, is what I'm saying. 

We have one more week of this, then Labor Day Weekend, then SCHOOL. I already have fifteen School Events on the calendar. And I'm slowly filling up our week with friends and coffee dates. It's a tiny bit weird to think Jack is going to be completely out of the playdate picture after a week and a half. No more weekday overnighters to Grandma's house, no random coffee shop breakfasts, no more Target at 8:30 AM. It's good - we're both definitely looking forward to school, oh yes - but it's also the end of an era, at least for Jack, and somewhat for me. I've still got a long time with Emma, but my near-daily semi-freakouts about What Are We Going To Do This Morning?! are practically ended with the big kids. Molly will be gone three days a week. (And when she's home she's easy: doughnuts and shopping.) 

So hopefully I won't be tearing my hair out these next few days. Hopefully we can do some fun stuff? Enjoy ourselves? Not that HE'S aware, but I am. And not that there's really anything to commemorate or DO, even, but I want to notice, pay attention. He won't always be the little boy so interested in his sister's princess birthday party. 

A preview

So last week was pretty interesting. I had the big kids signed up for another week of VBS at a different church, nine to noon, Monday through Friday. Where the first VBS week was from ten to one and felt like a vacation (just one kid! meeting friends for coffee! shopping!) this week felt like practice. PRACTICE FOR SCHOOL. 

Jack's school starts at 8:50, I think. We'll drop him off and then take Molly over to her preschool, which starts at 9:30. It's a big time gap, but I REALLY want Molly in this preschool and OH WELL. Then I'll have three hours with just Emma. Pick Molly up at 12:30, go back home, pick up Jack at 3. It's going to be... well, it sounds kind of exhausting to me, but maybe it won't be. People have kids in real school and preschool and not in school, right? They make it work? Maybe we'll just get into the swing of things and Emma, especially, will be happy napping around those times. (PLEASE GOD?)

That's Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Tuesday and Thursday Molly will be home with Emma and me and those mornings we'll probably go get our Kindergarten Morning Doughnut and I will love those mornings like I did when it was just Jack in preschool two (OMG TWO!) years ago. 

But yeah, this last week was sort of mind blowing for me. A preview, if you will, of Kindergarten. It was really REALLY weird to just have Emma. And starting at nine made a difference - four out of the five days, we immediately came home so Emma could take her morning nap. I'd put her down and then I'd just... look around and wonder what to do with myself. (Don't worry. I still didn't do the dishes.)

Even more eye opening for me was today - almost an entire day with just Emma. Phillip took the kids down to his parents' house Saturday morning and the grandparents didn't bring them home until about three in the afternoon today. So this morning I only gave Emma breakfast, I put her down for her morning nap and knew I wouldn't be bothered for an hour, when she woke up I only had to think about what she and I might like to do rather than what the big kids might like to do. It was so easy, it was so quiet, it was SO GREAT to focus on Emma.

I am NOT SAYING that one baby is easy. Now that I have three kids, one baby is easy FOR ME. (And I have an easy baby.) But when I had just one baby (an easy baby too), just that one baby was overwhelming. All the packing to go out, the carrying them everywhere, the diaper situation - what a drag. But when I can just focus on THAT instead of also yelling at big kids to get your shoes on and find your sweatshirts and did you remember your backpack and  FTLOG PUT YOUR SHOES ON... I can appreciate the single-focus of one kid more than I used to! 

It was just SO WEIRD to think that this sort of day is going to be my New Normal. Jack is going to be gone SEVEN HOURS A DAY. What are we going to DO? I will have three mornings a week with just Emma! You know what I did today with Just Emma? We ran an errand at Home Depot, I bought a coffee and we walked halfway around the lake, we visited my sister and my niece, and all day I was thinking, "HEY, I CAN TOTALLY GO FOR A RUN TODAY." Do you know how long it's been since I felt like I COULD exercise? That I actually had enough time and brain space to make it happen? (Not that I exercised today. I painted the fronts and backs of 10 doors and the fronts of 3 more this weekend - obvs I crashed on the couch.) 

But... what if I felt like that more days than not? Is that what school is going to be like? I'm not REALLY as exhilarated about this Jack going to school all day thing as I make out - I think we're going to miss him. I think it's going to be a strange and possibly tough transition for both of us. But MAN... today was pretty awesome. It's like I knew that I've been struggling? But not until today did I remember that swimming feels so incredibly different than drowning. 

With a bit more perspective

This morning Jack stormed into our bedroom, indignant that Molly was already there playing his precious iPad (this is how Phillip and I score a few more minutes to sleep in the mornings, GO AHEAD AND JUDGE) and half-shouted, "MOLLY!" - I leaped up and said, "WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE THAT KIND OF DAY TODAY." 

So what kind of day are we going to have? Augh, who knows. 

One thing I am always asked: "do you get a break?" 

I CONSTANTLY get breaks, you guys. Yes, Phillip will go away for work Monday through Friday, but I am very good at finding other people to watch and/or co-watch my children. I am EXCELLENT at escaping on my own. This is because I have a husband who encourages, promotes, pushes, happily agrees, does not even really have to be asked first about the escaping. I had plans with friends yesterday for a late afternoon happy hour, a happy hour that extended to, ah, eleven at night. And it was no big deal. I was away ALL AFTERNOON stuffing my face (two separate desserts and dessert venues, TWO) and hanging out in front of various waterfronts with my not-on-the-internet ladies, while my husband took care of dinner and bedtime and everything else drudgey and messy and frustratey. (He prefers his trophies in potato chip and Amazon gift card form.)

Then I stayed up until midnight watching the Gymnastics Heartbreak (insert NBC rant here) and now I'm... foggy. But okay. (Also: GAWSH, leave that girl ALONE, NBC REPORTERS!)

The struggle, for me, is the daily finding of something to hang each day on. Even last year we were doing preschool just three days a week and I still had Molly to occupy (though admittedly, that one is easy. She likes shopping and snacks just like her mama.)  Summer's been harder, though. It's SO important to give Jack a THING. "What are we going to do TODAY, Mommy?" and when I don't have a THING, everything goes to pot. I mean, sometimes it goes to pot ANYWAY, but our chances for a half-decent day significantly increase with a Thing. I'm terrible at things like the zoo (GOD I HATE THE ZOO), but I'm not bad at scheduling morning get togethers with friends or going to the lake with some buckets or setting up the backyard with the tent and the sprinkler and gardening tools - kind of lower key stuff. But even still, just the daily thinking up of The Thing can get so tiring, just like cleaning up the same messes, washing the same clothes, fixing the same lunches.  

Jack has been pestering me about the children's museum, but: getting everyone ready, packing the diaper bag, packing lunches, getting them into the car, finding parking, hauling out the stroller, paying a painful amount of cash to enter, and then being happy the kids are having a good time but being personally BORED OUT OF MY MIND... give me the lake or a friend's house ANY DAY. 

BUT. This is why we are so VERY MUCH looking forward to school. I honestly thought I would be sobbing buckets about my baby going to kindergarten, but HA HA HA we are both so incredibly ready. I can't give him the constant structure and projects and activities and purpose that he keeps asking for, not with his two little sisters to take care of too. Sometimes, like last week, I feel SO HORRIBLE about that. I'm like, I'm a SAHM! I don't DO anything else! This is it! There is nothing else to distract me! (Except the shiny shiny internet, I suppose.) But the truth is that a lot of SAHM days are long hard slogs and if I can keep diapers changed and meals ready then I am doing my best. 

Let us not discuss homeschooling mothers who are a breed unto themselves. 

So it was absoultely positively FANTASTIC to get the letter on Saturday (Saturday! already! HOLY MOLY) from the school district assigning my five-year-old to the neighborhood school, with start times and end times and a first day and everything. Double awesome to have the email conversation with the principal this week requesting a specific teacher, discussing the possibility of a K-1 split, finding out how they wecome the incoming kindergartners. 

I HATE to be all, "Just a few more weeks!" but I kinda feel like, "Just a few more weeks!" You guys know I love my kids and I really do love staying home with them and I have every confidence in myself to find something fun to do with all three of them today. But I don't feel like there's anything wrong in looking forward to school and Jack going away from 9 to 3 (OMG) every day to be with other people and learn stuff and start becoming a Kid Who Goes To School And Maybe Doesn't Want To Hold His Mother's Hand Anymore WAAAAHHHH. 

Okay, still mixed feelings. 

In which kindergarten enrollment drives me to drink

AS YOU KNOW I have not had good luck with school stuff. This past school year was, in many ways, a prolonged awkward moment and the whole time I kept thinking, "IS IT ME?" Why was my question met with weird defensiveness? How come I didn't know about this? How come I didn't know about THAT? Did I do something wrong? Was I unclear? Why is something so simple so confusing? Am I really this hopeless? Am I really so difficult to communicate with? Why does this feel confrontational? Have they labeled my kid "The One With The Incompetent Mother"? 

After manning up and taking Molly out of that overstuffed preschool, after emerging from the new baby fog, after whispered conversations with other parents, and (the kicker) the day they did not inform the pre-K parents that the school was in lockdown I decided NO, IT IS NOT ME. I will happily cop to my incompetent and clueless moments (YOU GUYS I LEFT THE CAR DOOR OPEN WHILE I DRANK A COFFEE AT WHOLE FOODS THIS MORNING, THE ENTIRE TIME, IN THE PARKING GARAGE, CAR WIDE OPEN, OMGGG) but! I am a halfway intelligent adult and I have a few years of Proper Communication under my belt and NO. IT WAS NOT ME. 

Enter kindergarten enrollment. 

SO. My mother, horrified that I had not yet enrolled her precious grandson in kindergarten, told me that I needed to call that school ASAP and sign him up. GET WITH IT, WOMAN! (This was months ago, by the way. Ahem.) Eventually I got around to that. I had a free morning, and I was under the impression that you mosey on down to the individual school, fill out a bunch of forms, and there you go. My mom told me they might even have a little play area for younger kids to hang out while you filled out your forms. Jack would get to see his new school, maybe we could snoop around a bit. This made sense to me, at least, and apparently this is how you enrolled when my mom was doing things. 

Anyway, I called the school so I could make sure I'd bring all the proper documents. I said something like, "Hi, my name is Maggie, I want to enroll my son in kindergarten at This School, can I do that today? What do I need to bring?" And the secretary was all, "HUH?"

SERIOUSLY. It was like no one had ever called and asked her that question before in her life. Sure, I was on the phone, but I could SEE her face and her face was saying WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME, YOU HOPELESSLY INEPT AND PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A PARENT.

What she actually said, I think, was, "WELL. Did you call the ENROLLMENT CENTER?"

And I said no, because I had no earthly idea what an enrollment center WAS. 

And she said, "WELL. You need to call the ENROLLMENT CENTER. Do you have their NUMBER?"

I suppose I was lucky she GAVE me the number instead of hanging up right then and there assuming I would find it on the internet. 

SPEAKING OF. If that's the kind of response you get when you call your kid's future school to find out how to get him IN, heaven help the parents who do not have the resources I have. Resources like internet access and speaking English and the time and wherewithal to listen to a stupid voice recording (that basically tells me to go look it up online, why are you wasting your time on the phone?) and make forty dozen Google searches. 

I have now brought this up with I don't know how many fellow parents and none of us have an answer. I'm not saying the state should be sending me a reminder notice in the mail ("Our records indicate you have a five-year-old! Have you considered public school!") or anything, but I HONESTLY WONDER how some of the parents out there figure this out. I mean, they're not ALL overinformed, anxious, my-kid-better-get-into-the-gifted-class city parents! 

ALL RIGHT SO ANYWAY. That enrollment center phone number? Totally useless. You couldn't talk to a real person. It was impossible. It gave me absolutely no information. So I gave up and went online, which I'd done ORIGINALLY, but I'd made a phone call in the first place because the website is TERRIBLE! Blargh! 

I figured it out, though. I learned that I needed to download eighty-four different forms, fill them all out, and turn them into the one, lone, single, solitary, ONLY ENROLLMENT CENTER on the total opposite side of town from me, before 4pm. HA HA HA HA HA

No way, dudes. NO WAY. One of the options was to email everything and that is the option I chose. I am savvy! I am internet smart! I HAVE A BLAWG!

But you should have seen me tonight. It was the sorriest picture. First my wireless printer was out of paper. Then I printed the wrong forms. Then I filled out of them out wrong. Then I had to figure out how to SCAN them so I could make PDFs. But I needed Phillip's computer to do that, so I found it and set it up and CRAP, I have to switch his Mac to the Windows operating system because I am Mac Stupid. Fine. Did that, then for some reason it is not connected to the network so it can't connect to the printer which is also the scanner and that is when I started to cry. 

Once I figured out another way to do it, just scanning all my forms probably took me an hour. I had to seriously rethink my entire IT'S NOT ME stance. Half that time was just looking for a USB stick (during the process I found another secret stash of chocolate and a handful of birthday/Mother's Day cards my husband never had the children give me HARRUMPH). Eventually I got the forms scanned and loaded onto the stick - but as JPGs not PDFs HMMM - and then I was worried the email wouldn't be able to handle all those attachments so I ZIPPED them...

And then I started remembering what sort of people I used to work with in an office and what sort of people are generally found in school district offices and I am not INTENTIONALLY being mean but WHAT IF THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A ZIPPED FOLDER? FULL OF JPGs? WHAT? Do they MEAN IT when they say you can email your admission forms? 

So NOW I am sitting here thinking I should have just mailed the stupid things. Why didn't I do that? I am just asking for trouble and/or a huge continuation of the Awkward Moment, I KNOW IT. I wanted to do it as quickly as possible because 1) I've waited so long and 2) I need to hurry up and request a particular kindergarten teacher. But I am feeling very doubtful about how much time I've actually saved. It might be NEGATIVE. 

I've decided that I will call on Thursday or Friday to confirm whether they got the forms. I thought about mailing them in too, but that would just make it worse. HOW DO I MAKE THINGS SO COMPLICATED?!

It makes me even more grateful for the Molly Preschool situation I have lined up. We're back at Jack's old school, where I NEVER felt awkward, where I was ALWAYS informed, where the teachers really knew my kid and had something to say about him at every pick up. I am paying for it, but it feels totally worth it. I ran into the teacher the other day (the preschool has relocated to the church where the kids are doing VBS) and even though I was only there one year AND I left last year, she grabbed me and gave me a private tour of the new space and shared TONS of information and fun stuff with me AND I LOVE HER. If you are local and looking for a 2s/3s/4s/pre-K program in the North Seattleish area, let me share the love. 

I am REALLY excited about kindergarten (and not just the free time!) and I know all this paperworky phone cally stuff has no bearing on what JACK'S experience will be. But I do wish I didn't feel like such an idiot about everything. I do wonder how people who don't have ready access to the internet are accomplishing the same tasks. I am not terribly impressed with the assistance I've received. IT'S NOT ALL ME. (RIGHT?!)

Two of my very favorite dead horses: sleep and school. You're welcome!

The current Emma theory is: less day sleep, more night sleep. Yesterday I woke her up early from both her morning and afternoon naps (KILLER) but Phillip put her down at 7:30 last night and she slept till 5. I fed her and put her back to bed; she started complaining around six and we got her up, but I'm pretty sure she was awake that whole time. ANYWAY. I wouldn't go so far as to say this is The Answer, but the theory has worked consistently so far and it at least makes us FEEL like we have (even the tiniest) grip on the situation. 

In other news, I am sad ALL OVER AGAIN about the Catholic school situation. The problem is that yesterday was the last day of school and because Emma napped beforehand, Molly and I were able to sit in on the assembly in the church. It was INCREDIBLY sweet and touching and moving and just all around charming. I was charmed! There were several sendings of teachers and students who will not return next year and they were all SO sweet and tear-inducing (if you are already tear-inclined, like me, shut up.) There was the honoring of the Parent Volunteer of the Year and HE was definitely the teary sort - he could barely choke out a thank you before he had to go sit down. 

Then there was the "moving up" ceremony during which I nearly died of THIS SCHOOL IS SO LOVELY! Representatives from each grade (there's only one class per grade) stood at the lectern, summarized their year in cute (younger grades) or inside-jokey (older grades) ways and then formally announced that their class was ready to move up to the next grade. Then the entire class stood up in the pew and marched into the vacant pew of the class above them. The eighth graders had already graduated and disappeared, so the seventh graders claimed their spot, the sixth grade the seventh grade and so on. It was just a really meaningful and joyful thing to witness. I felt SO disappointed that Jack would not be part of this community. I felt so disappointed that *I* would not be part of this community. 

It got worse later that night when I went to a church meeting (from six to nine thirty OMG I QUIT) and we heard the school principal present his budget. Just so much talk of Catholic school and how they make it work and trying to keep tuition down and what things they were able to do that year - shoot, I was ready to send my kids THERE. Yes, we know that I am easily influenced and swayed, and sending my kids to OUR parish school would be the height of inconvenience. Not to mention that in order to SEND our kids to Catholic school I would basically have to go back to work and that is not happening. But still. Disappointment. 

Maybe you're surprised because I wasn't terribly positive about Jack's pre-K experience. I think a lot (most?) of that had to do with the fact that the pre-K program was very new and still sort of a neglected stepchild at that school. Neither the staff nor the other parents seemed to know what to do with the pre-K kids and parents. There were valiant attempts to include us in various school events, but on a day to day basis the communication was terrible and I didn't think the program itself was all that fabulous. If I had to do it over again I probably wouldn't send him there. That said, he DID get to do a lot of things BECAUSE he was part of a "real" school - going on real field trips, visiting the school library, having a "buddy" in the upper grades. My impression of the kindergarten is totally positive and if circumstances were different I'd be excited to send him there. 

All of this said, my impression of the PUBLIC SCHOOL was INCREDIBLY positive and once I have a glimpse into that community and Jack actually starts attending, hopefully the Catholic school disappointment will wither and disappear.

Before all that, though, we have a summer of ballet lessons and a wedding and a beach weekend and maybe some swim lessons and two weeks of two different VBS camps and I keep telling Jack that kindergarten doesn't start until SEPTEMBER - we have a whole summer of fun to do first. 

In which a decision is made and I promise to stop whining about it all the time

Parenthood is finally getting all the kids in bed, settling down with a cup of tasty low-carb yogurt and your trusty laptop, only to fuh-reak out when someone screams at you from his bedroom, towards which you race with are-they-dying speed, only to hear, "Can I take my socks off?"

In other news, kindergarten is a GO. Now let's have a party. 

I was talking with a friend about refinancing - she was attempting it, Phillip and I are mulling it over - and she kept asking me what I thought about her situation and I kept saying, "Dude, I don't know, but it feels right?" and she'd say, "Yeah, it feels right to me too?" and I'd go, "But you know, FEELINGS..." and she was all, "TOTALLY." 

So I'm not sure what it means that your intrepid blogger here, who makes only emotional decisions, had a Good Feeling about the neighborhood school. I felt my anxiety around this situation just sort of... SETTLE. And the whole time I've been eye-rolling my own self because seriously? Could I MAKE a bigger deal out of something so not worthy of a Deal? KINDERGARTEN? REALLY? Then again, it's a SUPER huge deal! and I wanted to get it right and I was so confused when the Catholic schools didn't "feel right" and, well, thank God the neighborhood school did. 

The principal led us around for an hour and a half. She talked a lot of curriculum and education philosophy mumbo jumbo that I barely heard (this is why I bring my mother to these things, she's a Professional School Opinion Haver) but I did notice a few things. She seemed to know every single kid. She never ignored a kid who wanted her attention. In the middle of talking to this group of prospective parents she took a few mintues to listen to a kindergartner read his story. I liked that. 

Later I liked how she was super opinionated about constantly pulling kids out of class, about diversity, about teaching to all levels, about being friends with kids who are different from you - at one point I think she used the phrase 'world citizen' and that garbage totally resonates with my little bleeding heart. YAY OTHER CULTURES!

She also said she took some fourth and fifth graders to Barnes and Noble the other day and let them blow $1000 on books for their classes. I have heard enough Principal Anecdotes in my 32.5 years to know that is Special. 

The school is REALLY old and worn out and run down. That said, nearly every inch is papered over with art and projects and vocabulary words and charts and posters. The one curriculumy thing I noticed was the amount of writing going on in that school, and the WORDS! EVERYWHERE! and you know THAT warms my little bleeding poet-wannabe heart as well. We visited four or five classrooms and every teacher seemed great and engaged and the kids were involved and there are less than 300 students in the entire school and FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN IS FREE and, well, that is that. Decision: made. 

I could - I COULD - go to the option school open house next week and attempt to get Jack in there. But... yeah, I just don't feel like I need to push this any further. I think we are done. !!!

I still feel a little weird about the Catholic school piece. I think I just had this IDEA that we would send our kids to Catholic school. Because we could probably find a way to make it work, because we're dedicated and involved parishioners, because so many Catholics we trust think it's the way to go, because we've loved prayer in school, because it was a decision I emotionally leaned towards. But in practice it never FELT RIGHT. So I think I feel a little bit of loss around that, around the IDEA of what my child would do in school and being part of a Catholic school community and, yes, finding some sort of identity as a Catholic school parent. 

Now, though, I am excited to be a parent at Our Neighborhood School. Mostly, I'm excited to be the parent of a kindergartner, a kid who GOES TO SCHOOL. It's this entirely new stage of my life, as freaky as the idea that my little boy will be five years old in May, and I CANNOT WAIT. I am totally going to take my OWN picture on the first day of kindergarten. (Maggie Cheung: Making Her Kids' Milestones Into Angst About Her Own Self Since 2007)


Cheer up, sleepy Jean

It snowed today. And I thought about what it would be like to move to southern California. I feel like I've been thinking this a lot lately, more than I usually do during the winter months. No, MOM, we're not moving, but seriously, sometimes I just wonder.

Or maybe I'm just tired of hissing at my children to be! quiet! all the livelong day. How does a person who weighs thirty-five pounds make more noise going up the stairs than I do? Why must they both run EVERYWHERE? 

It doesn't matter. Phillip is taking care of them right now. Emma just went down for the night. And I am in my beautiful bedroom with the curtain headboard which I still have not taken pictures of I KNOW I'M SORRY and I almost feel like I'm off the clock. 

We're going on a kindergarten tour tomorrow. I am... ambivalent. The Catholic schools are out - for now, anyway. The choice/option/magnet schools, whatever you want to call them, aren't really a "choice" for us seeing as how the tiebreaker system makes them essentially neighborhood schools. I just want to go to our neighborhood school tomorrow and see a lively kindergarten class with a nice teacher so I can feel okay about sending my kid there next year. I won't care about worn out carpet or ugly portables and textbooks that have seen better days. Just the school itself looks run down and tired from the outside. But if there's one thing I've known since birth, it's that Schools Never Have Enough Money. That doesn't mean it isn't staffed by awesome teachers. 

I also called up Jack's old preschool today to see if there's a spot for Molly. Now, I'm not really sure what preschool teachers and staff are supposed to be like, or what they're typically like, or, really, ANYTHING about the people running preschools. But where I feel like Jack's program is lacking in creativity and mess and energy, and where Molly's program was bursting at the seams with only two teachers who never spoke to me, Jack's old preschool is bright, welcoming, interesting, and hands on. Jack brought home such neat projects, his teachers always had a quick note to share about him at pick up, he did such fun things. The communication at that school puts the newsletters and emails from our current preschool (and Molly's school) to shame. I MISS IT. 

I figured out that I could drop Jack at kindergarten, go directly to the old preschool, and drop Molly off. I no longer care that it's farther away - although this issue is somewhat moot as the staff told me they're looking for a new building! We'll have to see about that. But I feel like I sort of failed Molly this year. I don't feel guilty about it - I really feel like I did my best - but in hindsight, sticking my clingy-ish, quiet-when-her-brother-isn't-around daughter in a class full of 20 kids, most older than Molly, was not the brightest idea. I don't feel so bad about Jack - his program isn't what I hoped for, but Jack sort of rolls with everything and loves his class. But Molly... I want Molly to have a good start. I want her to like going to preschool. I want her to have some time doing her own thing. Again, I'm SO not worried about her learning specific things or getting into the right schools or getting ahead or whatever, but I want her to have FUN and to know that school is a FUN PLACE. (At age four, at least!) I could keep her home again, but I'm positive she'd enjoy it - in a smaller, warmer setting. And that's Jack's old school. 

SO. I only got to play phone tag with the director (who totally remembered Jack AND Molly and "would LOVE!" to have Molly attend) but they're moving to a new building and there's a lot to figure out still. I'm hopeful. 

Which of you have kids going to kindergarten next year? Have you done the tour or "Kindergarten Round Up!" or whatever they call it where you live? Or maybe everyone here is super tired of hearing about school. ME TOO. 

School Shmool

I KNOW you've all been waiting for the Where To Send Jack To Kindergarten Update. DON'T LIE. 

Let's recap!

Jack is currently going to the Pre-K program at the Catholic school 2 blocks away. We'll call this Catholic school and parish St. Close. 

I have mixed feelings about this program. I am not TERRIBLY impressed with what he does in school. I am FAR from a rah rah four-year-olds should be doing proofs! and writing five paragraph papers! type of person. But the stuff he brings home makes me think he's not being particularly, ah, challenged. That said, I am WAY more annoyed by the fact that they do not paint in Pre-K. THERE IS NO PAINTING! What is preschool for if not to make adult-approved messes?! 

But you all know I decided not to do much about it. He's happy there and I'm too busy re-napping a baby to do much about it. Whatever. Molly will probably go somewhere else. 

So here are our Kindergarten Options: 

Kindergarten at St. Close. I have heard nothing but glowing review after glowing review about St. Close and DUDE, it is TWO BLOCKS AWAY. 

Kindergarten at St. Far, aka Our Current Parish. Not SUPER far away, but farther away than I care to chauffeur children twice a day. 

Neighborhood School. Low-ish test scores and 70% free lunch, but 1) close and 2) a teacher I know who used to work there RAVED about it when I asked. 

K-8 Option School. We would have to apply and get selected in a lottery, but I really like the idea of skipping the whole middle school thing. 

ALL of these options are good ones. I would be okay with my kid going to any of these schools. I am (was!) in the position of deciding which one would be BEST. 

SOOOOO. I pretty much thought St. Close was a given. I really did. It's a CATHOLIC SCHOOL TWO BLOCKS AWAY. How great is that! 

However! In order to get the parishioner rate we have to, you know, become parishioners. Phillip was SUPER not excited about switching churches. I was gung ho if I felt that St. Close was the right school for Jack. But I never felt strongly enough about it. And then I started doing the math and HOLY GEE Catholic school is expensive. For us it's in the realm of Affordable, But Say Goodbye To Your European Vacay In Three Years. And maybe I SHOULD say goodbye? But doing Other Stuff is kind of important to me and again, I just didn't feel STRONGLY enough about Catholic schools. I WISH I DID. Really! But FOR ME there are enough cons to my Catholic school choices to not make the $$$ worthwhile, especially since I'm not completely convinced that the academics are that much better. And even if they WERE... I don't know. 

Then I went to the open house for St. Far and yes, I was just there to find a reason to cross it off my list. I ADMIT IT. But for a while there I was SUPER IMPRESSED and ready to sell a kidney and start up a carpool and everything. Loved it! Loved everything! Until I visited the kindergarten classroom and saw a sad dreary room filled with very quiet five-year-olds sitting in rows practicing handwriting... and, well, I am the woman upset because my kid is not getting to paint in preschool. HE BETTER GET TO PAINT IN KINDERGARTEN. It just wasn't the kind of classroom I want for my kid's first year of Real School, which is really too bad because seriously, everything else was awesome. 

What I like (or think I like) about Catholic school: 

  • It's churchy! Phillip and I have been loving the churchy stuff. Jack has learned prayers and stories and all sorts of things that we just find PRECIOUS and WONDERFUL.
  • Small community of super involved (and, as far as I can tell, super cool) parents.
  • They aren't doing some of the curriculum things my mother, aka Professional Teacher Consultant Person, disapproves of in public schools.  
  • I like the idea of being part of a church/school community

Things I don't like (or think I don't like) about Catholic school:

  • All the fundraising. WHICH I WOULD DO. OBVS. But dude, I feel the pressure and I am only a half-committed Pre-K parent.
  • It's PRIVATE. This connotes unpleasant things for me. St. Close is better than St. Far, as St. Far is in a wealthy neighborhood, but still. Diversity means a lot of things. 
  • Only one class per grade (at these two schools at least) so you're with the same group of kids up to 8th grade and no option for another teacher.
  • (Which means the same group of parents. HRRMM.)
  • Sending three kids to Catholic school would probably require me working full time. Aaaaand, I don't know about that.

SO! Let's look at the public schools!

Well, Ursula The Neighbor went to the option school open house and found out that 1) it is fabulous and we totally want our kids to go there except 2) they probably can't because the school board just passed a measure, like, THE NIGHT BEFORE, saying that the second tie breaker in the lottery (after siblings) is living within a certain distance from the school. We are out of range. So the option schools are, as far as I can tell, essentially neighborhood schools. YAY OPTIONS!

Which leaves the neighborhood school. The one I know the least about. 

A friend's husband taught there for a few years and he seriously had nothing but wonderful things to say about it. About the principal and the other teachers and what resources they have BECAUSE they have a high free lunch percentage and oh yeah he would totally send his kids there. That said a lot to me. 

(Also full day kindergarten is free when the free lunch thing is so high. Score.)

I THINK I AM OKAY WITH THIS. I think what I mostly feel is some sort of disappointment in myself for not making the effort for Catholic school. I feel like I SHOULD be making the effort. I am, after all, an Involved Catholic Parent, so I should be doing The Right Thing and sending my kid to Catholic school. I'm not sure WHY I don't feel strongly BUT I JUST DON'T. Blargh!

Maybe it's because Phillip and I are regular ole public school graduates with an above average interest in Church and PLENTY of people who went to Catholic school are no longer Catholic. So it's not that I think Catholic school is going to make or keep my kids Catholic. It's abundantly clear to me that there are good teachers and bad at every school, so I'm not completely convinced about one school being better than the other. I think low test scores have more to say about economics. I think the likelihood of Classmates I'd Want My Kids To Be Friends With is probably higher at a Catholic school, but again, I'm not a big fan of Sheltering. (Maybe I should be? GAH. DON'T KNOW.)

We COULD swing it. We just... don't feel like we need to. I guess. Also, I've been totally sold on every option thus far, so I await the kindergarten open house at the neighborhood school with excitement. SELL ME, NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL!