Middle school has introduced me to a whole new level of worry.
Of course, this year the kids are theoretically responsible for more. I worry that he won't manage. But Jackson is getting better. He lost his gym shirt and the novel he was reading one week, but he found them both without my resorting to rooting through the lost and found box. I think most days he has brought home the homework he needs.
Jackson is in a programme that has a lot of projects. Our home laptop was due for replacement so it made sense to get one that Jackson could take to school. We had an epic 'which one do we buy' discussion that lasted for weeks. We ended up with a Mac Air as it will sync with our i Mac desktop.
But the night before Jackson took it to school, I was literally up at night, worried he would leave it in the cafeteria, drop it in a urinal or knock it off his desk. I was up late googling for the GPS feature to see whether we could track it if it was lost or stolen. (I have since found it a shell which is supposed to absorb some of the shocks).
But what I was most unprepared for was one of the non academic course. Jackson came home from school the first full week of school that he found out his 'exploration' schedule. The students have 4 explorations or courses they take: computers, music, home ed and tech ed. Tech ed is what we old-schoolers call shop. The J Boy was quite excited. I was too -- his Daddy enjoyed shop very much. This is what middle school is all about!
On meet-the-teacher night, we went to the shop room and I saw it: very, very scary machines. Saws, drill presses, industrial sanders. I started to feel a little queasy and in need of fresh air. My TEN YEAR OLD SON, who can't remember to flush the toilet, is going to be relied on to remember to put up the finger saving safety guard on the scroll saw? What about his clarinet aspirations? He needs all ten fingers for that!
It is now that I really miss my Mom. Mom would have prayed for the safey of his digits precisely during the sixth block, that 40 minutes when he needs protection.
I do a finger check every day when he gets home. So far, so good. I think he has done the sawing on his project, and it on to sanding.
I will be relieved when he moves on to home ec. But I will have to worry about him sewing his finger to his apron, or burning his hand on the oven ....
Activity day is always in June. After a run of rainy Junes, the school decided to move it to move June to September.
Rain was forecast.
But we got lucky.
A lot of creative waiting in line.
The well-known elementary school triathalon: crab walk.
Run with beanbag on head.
Some good old fashioned running (to the next event).
A little balance ...
Best thing about activity day?
It was an entirely new experience to have only one kid there! For the past 4 years I had 2 and it was always a mad dash to try and find them each in a few activities and get pictures. Even before that, I had Sydney as a toddler to keep track up.
Today I parachuted in for 20 minutes, took pictures and came home.
I work downtown in a big city. I am quite accustomed to be asked for food, money (for food, naturally) and cigarettes. There is one fellow, Daniel, who is often on the street corner between my office and the closest Starbucks. So I see him a lot. I have bought him coffee and a muffin a few times, as do many other people.
This morning at Starbuck's, I sat down with my coffee to sneak a peak at the news before work. My keester had just hit the chair when a woman approached me to ask for money so she could buy a muffin.
I normally say no as, invariably, I have no actual money on me and I say in complete truth "I don't have any money".
This morning, I happened to have some $1 and $2 coins on me. I almost said no, but on occasion, I do like to lend a hand. It reminds me how blessed I am in so many repsects. I try to do this wisely.
"You're going to buy a muffin right?" I pointed to the pastry display.
"Yes, I'm hungry".
She looked a little rough, but she may well be hungry and tired. As Jesus said "Feed my sheep."
I gave her $2. She already has $1 in her hand, so that would have been enough for a muffin. I saw her approach another woman in the line up and I felt discomfited.
A second later, she looked at me, pointedly and said "I'm going to buy something at McDonald's instead". I believe I saw a smirk.
I glared at her rather ungenerously.
The next thing I knew, the entire coffee shop were surprised by a very loud voice, with a great deal of venom, saying:
No one was as surprised as me, that it was me uttering the crude epithet.
It was a visceral reaction. I felt taken in, misused, and extremely embarrassed. No less so for having yelled that across a crowded Starbuck's.
I am almost positive this is not what Jesus had in mind.
Usually the first weeks of school are busy.Not this year.
I was heart-stopping, mind-blowing, gut-wrenching chaos.
I still am not sure why.
Other years, the first week of school finds our kids in temporary classes. Doing art, getting exercise and socializing. Every year I complain that it is three more days of summer only I get to send the kids to school.
This year for the first time since we've been at the elementary school (this is year 7), they put the kids in their classes on the first full day of school -- the Wednesday. This meant I had to marshal school supplies, organize gym strip, read planners and fill out forms. All these tasks are normally reserved for the chaos of week 2.
Of course Jackson is in middle school. We found out his teacher and class on his day one (90 minutes long) and they hit the ground running the next day. Forms requiring information and cheques. They had picture day on the second full day of school. Seriously? Some years I don't have the back-to-school haircuts done yet. At the last second I remembered and pleaded with Jackson to trade his stretched out t shirt for a navy and kelly green sweater, which was almost clean and just a little wrinkly. Jackson came home from school with the news that at middle school they use a green screen and he would have to do re-takes. (fortunately, green screen technology has advanced and the pictures actually worked out).
It was day 2 they they assigned the first project of the year. Which we forgot about that first weekend because usually we don't see any homework until October.
We capped off that first week with a Friday early morning band meeting for Jackson. Followed by the news that band started Monday morning (despite the fact that no instruments would be distributed for 2 weeks).
This had the domino effect of upsetting the car pool apple cart, which we had sorted out in great detailed attention.
First week of school was supposed to have been an easy landing as the second week had the advent of activities. Guides, jazz, stage for Sydney and band for Jackson. And clarinet practicing. Jackson had to deal with some uncertainly as to which band he would play in (beginner or advanced). He likes uncertainly about as much as the Dow Jones.
The evenings in week 2 were also intense as Jackson worked on his project and decided to use some experimental drawing programme. Jackson insert a photo for background that he could not resize. Husband and I both graduated from the trial and error school of learning software. We're pretty good at figuring things out. Jackson saw us making reversible errors in our attempt to help and blew a gasket expressed concern. He eventually worked it out. I believe Husband and I both went to bed that night with a bottle of wine.
Add to this meet-the-teacher night in two schools and some feverish and futile attempts to arrange childcare for Sydney after school. Oh and plan Sydney's birthday party with a movie theatre that refused to return phone calls or respond to on line requests for birthday parties.
At the end of the week, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Sure I did have a mountain of school paper work to do. I had to find a recorder for Sydney, a clarinet teacher for Jackson, hunt for Sydney's old calculator. I needed a criminal record check, a driver's license abstract and had to tour and register for after school care for Sydney one day per week. But apart from one more school meeting (band), one more picture day (Sydney), I think we were through the worst of September.
The last three weeks have been a master class in multi tasking, ball juggling and calendar management.
It started the week before school started. I thought I was in pretty good shape. I had the school supplies. We had back-to-school outfits chosen. The car pool was in place for Jackson. We were ready, right? Well I had to work one day, I was helping at VBS at our church (where the kids were attending for the mornings), this was all very do-able.
Then my tablet died. This is not only the source of my entertainment, primarily reading commentary, news and blogs on the U.S. presidential race (the Repulican convention was that week), but the epicentre of the family organization. It has my Google calendar and my email. It is always with me. So if I need to add an appointment to the calendar, I do it on the spot (at work, at school, at doctor's office). Without it, I had to remember guess if I had that slot free in the calendar. When I inevitably guessed wrong, I have to change appointment/ rearrange playdate. If I am in the kitchen and remember I need to email about something, I do it immediately. Instead, now I had to climb a full set of stairs to get to the upstairs computer to check or send my email (is that how it was in the 1890's 1990's?) I felt very disorganized. And off.
The only good news was that my tablet was under warranty and all I needed to do was find 36 minutes to drive to the Acer outlet to drop it off. I did not have 36 minutes times 2 for the round trip that week.
I did have a bunch of errands to do, including find pants for Jackson (subject of coming blog).
Sydney had a doctor's appointment an hour away (3 hours total time, including the extra 30 minutes in the waiting room in addition to the 30 minute appointment). This added more things to my to-do list: the requirement of a blood test (second in a month) in addition to a hunt for a compound pharmacist.
On top of this I remembered that Sydney did not have inside shoes for school. One other year, I forgot about the inside shoe requirement and went shoe shopping the first week of school. It wasn't pretty. So Friday night of the Labour Day weekend was my deadline for shoe acquisition.
Friday night Sydney and I went to the mall. After a long debate about whether to get size 12 (fit right now only barely) or size 12.5 (don't quite fit) we find shoes (and an extra pair because I am the BOGO target market). I also remember she needed a body suit for dance and a few other things. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I came home and discovered that last spring Sydney's inside shoes needed to be replaced and those still fit her.
I conveniently planned to pamper myself for the Labour Day weekend. I had a spa appointment (a birthday gift from my "sisters") on Saturday and a haircut (downtown) on Sunday. This might have worked, but Sydney was taking some medication she hated and was in a bit of a Mommy phase (kind of like how Republicans are in a bit of a supply side economy stage). So every time I left the room, went to the bathroom or tried to reboot the laundry, there were plaintive cries of "Moooommmmy!?!?!?!" You can well imagine how a 2 hour spa appointment and 3 hour hair appointment (including travel) went over. You can also imagine how hard it is to get anything done. They really need to make baby Bjorn's for almost 9 year olds.
We might have enjoyed a more laid back weekend, only my family was coming over for brunch on the Monday. This meant not only did we have to clean the house parts of the house people would see, we actually had to buy groceries to feed people.
Add to that both John and I had responsibilities at church on Sunday. And it turned out Sydney had a tummy ache so one of us had to stay home. So I went to church early, set some things up, came home and John went to church to do the rest.
Monday was a full on spring to get ready for the brunch at our house. It was delicious (everyone brought food) and only marred by Finnegan's insistence that her cousin doggy, Giselle, play. She lives by the maxim "my house, my rules". She took it badly that Giselle did not want to dog wrestle with her so we had to keep her on a leash, hold her in our laps or keep one dog outside.
We went to bed that night, with great anticipation, that the kids would be going back to school. Everything was going to calm down. Wasn't it?
In 1975 my family moved from the outskirts of Toronto to Edmonton. What were the big differences?
Well we in Toronto we had a mediocre NHL hockey team and in Edmonton we were 5 years from having one. My Dad had taken the commuter train to work in Mississauga. Two days of the marvels of the Edmonton Transit System and my parents were shopping for a new car.
As a 13 year old, I was sad to have left my friends behind, but I was the type of kid who was up for an adventure. The first real difference happened on my first day of school. I attended, was assigned a locker and handed a list of school supplies to buy.
In the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga all supplies were provided. I think in grade 4 my parents had to supply a geometry set. Apart from that, pencils, notebooks, textbooks were all provided.
On the first day of school, no doubt my mother, with a child each in elementary school, junior high and high school, breathed a sigh of relief that we were all back to school. We had moved into our house only days earlier and I am sure she was happy for the quiet house to get to the hard work of sorting out the house and making it a home.
Then her bubble burst. My brothers and I all came home with school supply lists. My Mom quickly found out that her relief was short lived and all four of us needed to go to Woodward's and buy school supplies. It may not have been such a bad thing if we hadn't met every other child and their motherss in southwest Edmonton doing the same thing.
It was quite a sight: frazzled mothers pushing carts while children through binders, paper, pencils and glue into the carts. My Mom was shell shocked. Added to that we didn't know was some of the things on the list. What is a Keytab? And why did we need so many of them?
Fast forward 35 years and the school supply industry has come a long way. Teachers still make up lists, but now the free market economy has blossumed and businesses have sprung up where you can pay someone to put all those supplies in a neat little box with a handle, a cardboard briefcase if you will (that will fail on the first day of school ensuring splayed school supplies all over God's green acre).
For 6 six years I have paid an extortionate discounted price based on volume buys for the school. Each spring when we are just happy to have spring break in out sights, the supply order form comes home.
Oh sure, there are a few years I get burned. Like the year I knew Jackson had almost unused pencil crayons coming home from grade 3 so I declined to pay for them again in grade 4. But then he donated them to inner city kids. I didn't mind that he donated them. It would have been nice if I figured that out more than 12 hours before he was required to bring the supplies to school (Without a word of a lie, I found pencil crayons from my childhood and put them into his pencil box).
This year. Oh this year. Jackson is starting middle school, which also supports the free market economy with mass buys of school supplies. But because he is an out-of-catching kid, we were not offered the packaged school supply buy.
So I shopped. And shopped. And shopped. And finally after a quadrant search of every place I could think of, found a USB on a lanyard (but buying a USB anda lanyard).
But I do question why Jackson will need a box of tissues in grade 6. It seems brutally unfair that I have to send a box of tissues to school AND pay for the extra laundry soap and hot water to wash his shirts to clean boogers off his shirt sleeves.
Ever the rebel (well, not really), I reject the notion that Jackson will need three 36 gram jumbo glue sticks in grade 6. What is this, kindergarten? That many glue sticks in the proximity of 11 year olds can only lead to gluing toilet paper to the parking lot.
So I reject that requirement. I will not send that much glue to middle school.