Yesterday morning I went to the school and gathered my materials for a short art presentation.
Bel's classroom was empty when I arrived. The kids came in a few minutes later, each toting a cardboard magazine box. They were almost perfectly quiet. After lining their boxes up on the windowsill, they came to the rug at the front of the room and sat down.
So so so quiet. I was more than a little unnerved, to be honest. I'm used to rowdy groups of 3-4 yr olds bubbling over for storytime. Or busy, noisy pre-school classrooms at our day care. I've had adult patrons be noisier in the local history room than these kids were as they returned from their reading stations.
Still, they got settled and I got started. And then! Someone lost a tooth! In great excitement he went to his teacher, who sent him for a brief visit to the nurse to make sure all was well.
We talked about two paintings, one a painting of a woman and child from the Iowa tribe by George Catlin, the other an abstract modern painting using pictographs by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. I sort of compared them as a painting of how Native Americans look contrasted to a painting of how it feels to be Native American. The kids got it pretty quickly. We wrapped up our talk and I passed out construction paper to make woven placemats. When we were done it was time to go home, and Bel and I walked the big prints back to the art cabinet before heading out to the car. She held my hand the whole way.
While Otto seems to feel right at home at school and loves it ("Mom!" he said last night, "did you know that everyone there knows my name? Even people who have never met me yet!"), Bel has been struggling. At the parent/teacher conference earlier this month, her teacher said that Bel sometimes just seems sad. She's doing well academically, she's great in class, she's a sweetheart -- but she's not entirely happy. My friend Jen told me that when she studied abroad, the international center told her that homesickness usually peaks at around 3 months.
I took a big breath and reminded the teacher that it's only been about 3 months since we moved, plus her dad's gone every other week and she misses him. I took another big breath and reminded Annabel that even if we were still in Ypsi, things would be different there too, and she'd be at the big school all day. I took a big breath for myself and reminded myself that she's 5, a verbal, outgoing extrovert in a family of introverts, and still needs afternoon naps no matter how hard she fights them.
Next week we're all off for Thanksgiving, and after that we'll tweak her schedule a little bit and see if we can get her focused on more happy-making things. Plus her best friend from our old neighborhood is coming to town with her mom in early December, and we're plotting a get-together for the girls. It will be good for Bel to see her, even if she's sad when we have to say goodbye again. She is loved, and her friends have not forgotten her, and she'll make more friends in time. That's our mantra.
I'm feeling ready to work again -- now, if only a job would present itself... Having Jon gone every other week is kind of a wrench in the works though. How to manage evening shifts and kid activities gets to be a logistical nightmare, and Otto really has done better with schoolwork since getting to come straight home after school. Now that we're a little settled, I feel more confident about being able to figure out a good after-school care situation. But it won't come cheap, of course. Good child care doesn't, and I wouldn't trust it if it did. So there's that to figure out.
Plus there's Charles, who is behaving much better lately, but would still be a bit of a challenge for any poor, unsuspecting sitter. He loves having me home during the day. He loves our morning walks. He loves getting the kids off the bus. He loves seeing our neighbors at the bus stop. He'll be 2 in February and he's beginning to mellow out a little bit, showing signs of the very nice dog he could become. I don't know if we'll ever be able to leave him alone in the house uncrated, or to sleep on Annabel's bed, but I also don't worry about anyone ever sneaking into the house unnoticed.
It's not like it's been all work and no play! We had a very fun visit with Nana and Poppy, who came up for Bel's Daisy investiture:
We've been getting geared up for winter - boots and coats and hats and such:
Otto's done some good work this month at school, despite his teacher's concerns that he's too innattentive during the day (I do not doubt it or discount it, but still - he's happy and learning):
And this month I have a nice stack of jobs to apply for - a couple of them are even day jobs, which Jon is really cheering for. We will see!