About Us

There are four of Them: three girls and one boy, little stair-steps all. There are two of Us: best friends, co-parents and truly in love. The Six of us have epic adventures full of laughter and love, occasionally containing tears, but always together.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Report Card

We are now in our fourth week of school. I can't believe how time is flying! I also can't believe how well the kids have settled in. Well, I can believe it, but I hadn't let myself hope that it would go this well. I'm so pleased/relieved that it has.

Elie is doing fantastically in her class. Her teacher has quite high expectations for the students and their behavior. As a result, many of the students think she is quite strict and some even call her mean. But we have had a very positive relationship with her from the start. Elie is doing wonderfully and really rising to the challenge of learning a new system for everything, in the middle of her primary education. All of the other students, save one, have attended this primary school since nursery. They are very familiar with the schedule and terminology and the general way the school is run. Elie has had to learn on the run and is doing a fantastic job. We are very pleased with the type of educating they are doing. They are very creative and interactive and employ lots of different education strategies to allow the kids to learn in the way they learn best. Assignments are open ended, allowing the kids to brainstorm and be creative in the way that suits them.

I was a bit nervous about how Elie would do, after all, these children have had one more year formal education than she has. But, as her teacher told me this evening, she is very bright and is not afraid to ask for clarification when she doesn't understand what is going on. To top it off, she is making friends left and right and is loving that. She is self-confident without being overbearing and has apparently made friends with many other students in the school, both her age and older. I found out this evening, from a teacher at the open house, that she has joined the Lego Club at school and been participating in that once a week. She didn't mention it to us, so I'm going to ask her tomorrow. I think it's cool the school even has a Lego Club! I do wonder why she hasn't told us, I hope she doesn't think we would disapprove. I am so proud of her. She is really doing wonderfully.

Isaac is also doing amazingly well. He is fitting right in, age and maturity-wise. He has a bit less adjusting than Elie does to the school side of things, because Year 1 is the first "structured" learning year. So everyone else in the class is figuring out the same things he is. We were a bit concerned that he would be bored because he is reading at such a high level, but the teachers noticed his advanced skills directly and are actively working with him one on one! YAY!!! He has caught on to soccer and brings a ball everyday to school. Which always draws at least two or three other Year 1 boys to play with him. He loves his teacher, who is male and another fantastically creative teacher.

Isaac is feeling a bit of strain about being "different". This past weekend he cried for about 30 minutes, telling me all about how he is so different and how the kids all ask him about America and how he misses his friends. I am sure that the other children are not being mean. I am sure they are just curious. And I know that Isaac's angst is because of his perception that he is so "different". I have talked to a couple of the other moms of Isaac's classmates and there are many bilingual families in the class. Yesterday I talked with Isaac about how they are "different" too. And he said "but they don't sound different!" So he is struggling with that, but I know he will find his way and sort it out. In the meantime, he doesn't seem too bothered and is always excited to go to school and excited to share with us about his day.

I was really, really nervous about Talia. She has always been soooo clingy and I just wasn't sure how she would handle such a long day at school, buying lunch, a new system, etc etc. And for the first three weeks, she did smashingly. There was nary a tear, she would change her shoes and head in for her day. The teachers are wonderful and reported how impressed they were with how she just found her place and was fitting right in. However, this week has not gone so well. Sunday she was sick, but Monday was feeling a bit better. Tuesday we got to school and she began to sob! She clung to my neck and would not let go. I did manage to get her calmed down and she was just fine the rest of the day. When I picked her up she was enthusiastic and happy. Last night she threw up again and so today she didn't go to school, but when it came time for me to go to the open house, she began to sob and cry. Dadam was here and staying with them, but Talia just wanted Mommy. I'm not really sure what is going on, but I hope we can get over this uncertainty soon. I know she likes school and likes what she is doing there. I am really pleased with the phonics reading program they are using and I really LOVE the freedom they give the kids to guide themselves. It's really quite a Montessori type learning atmosphere. We'll go again tomorrow, now that she is feeling better, and hopefully we can get the day going without any tears.

As for MissNoodle, she is doing alright. She desperately wants to begin school. (In fact, she and Elie packed her a backpack complete with snack, water bottle, two babies and a teddy bear, which she then carried around for the rest of the day.) I think that nursery is in our near future, she just wants to be big like The Bigs. And really, who can blame her?

So, it's a big thumbs up from us about the school. I'm so relieved that everything is working out and thrilled that we made such a good choice. It certainly seems like it is just what we wanted for our kids!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now We Are Six!

Dear Isaac,

Last weekend was Rosh Hashana. You were lucky this year because your birthday fell in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, so you got to celebrate by doing *normal* birthday things instead of going to synagogue all day. We had gone to services and you insisted on wearing your suit, replete with vest, tie and coat. After we got home, Dadam sent you upstairs to get your clothes changed so we could eat lunch. Time passed and you were very quiet, so he went upstairs to see what you were doing. He walked into the bathroom and there you were, pants down around your ankles, shirt unbuttoned with tie, vest and coat still on, squatting down and putting together a puzzle on the floor. My guess is that you had been staring at the puzzle while slowly getting undressed and when you noticed two pieces that went together, you were unable to resist squatting down and putting them together. Then you noticed more pieces and got lost in the puzzle, forgetting entirely about getting your clothes changed.

This story illustrates so much about you and I never know whether I should laugh or pull my hair out. You are so incredibly smart and curious. You are constantly asking questions and observing; I know you keep a mental list of EVERYTHING that goes on around you. You read anything and everything you can get your hands on; recently you read "James and the Giant Peach" in one weekend. And not only do you read it, but you ruminate on it, digest it and share it in completely random situations! On the other hand, you seem to have a complete inability to focus on anything that is banal. You haven't quite figured out that you have to do the ordinary stuff before you can go on and do the stuff you really want to do. And I suppose this is totally normal for a 5/6 year old boy, but it probably makes me crazier because you *can* be so motivated.

I do get irritated, though, and part of me thinks you don't fully understand it. You have grown into such a happy-go-lucky kiddo, willing to do just about anything and go anywhere. And you can't fathom why I have worked myself up into a froth just because I've asked you to put your shoes on and walk in to find you with one sock on and kicking a ball.

In fact, I think there's a lot about other people you don't understand. You have an innocence about you; you can explain and understand so much (especially what you've read about), but sometimes you just don't understand why people act the way they do. Because of this I do worry a bit (moms always do, you know) that the other kids (particularly the boys) will bully you or influence you into behaving differently. However, I've lately observed that part of your strength lies in the fact that you can't/don't understand aggressive behavior and you don't like being around it, which means you're not really interested in adopting it.

All that being said, your innocence has not caused you any problems fitting in at school. I was a bit concerned about how you would react to the huge upheaval that moving across an ocean and into a different culture would be. But you have taken it all in stride, with your happy-go-lucky self, and inserted yourself right in. You have taken up soccer with a passion and bring a ball with you everyday to school. You are learning the slang left and right and "practice" soccer outside when we get home after school. When I go to drop you off in the morning, there are always other kids calling your name and asking you play with them. You seem like you've always been there, an American kid in the midst of Yorkshire.

You continue to be incredibly tender towards your sisters. You and Talia now have lunch recess time together and during the first week of school she couldn't find you on the playground and became hysterical. Another student helped her find you and you told us that evening that you "gave her a big hug, until she stopped crying" and then you "tickled her." And in the shower the other day you tenderly and gently helped her rinse the shampoo out of her hair when she didn't want my help. I love watching you love your sisters.

You are funny and observant, intelligent and kind, physical and impulsive and just right. I only hope that I can keep answering your random questions, "How did plants and animals and trees and people grow on earth? Did we really all come from the same stuff?" (which was followed by a series of questions about prison and if apologizing for what you did got you released) and to try to take a deep breath when you can't focus on the banalities of everyday life. I can hardly believe that you are six already. I was so afraid when you were born, so concerned that I wouldn't know how to raise a boy. But here you are, growing up before my very eyes into one very cool person.
Happy Birthday, Isaac!
I love you so much, my beautiful, precious, brilliant boy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pump Room Museum

Waaaay back in the beginning of July, the first week we were here, we took an afternoon adventure to a fun museum in Harrogate. I never did write about it and so I guess I better catch up!

Harrogate is a spa town. In the late 16th century a very large number of mineral springs were discovered near the town. Many physicians began to prescribe mineral waters as a way to cure many ailments and so towns like Harrogate drew huge numbers of people seeking treatment from the waters. The popularity of drinking extremely gross smelling and tasting mineral water faded and towns like Harrogate had to come up with other ways to draw people in. Nowadays, Harrogate is known for its fabulous shopping and the Stray. It is a beautiful town.

The main pump house has been turned into a beautiful little museum. It talks about the history of Harrogate, the pumps and the treatments (and treatment facilities) that depended on the medicinal waters.

The museum was very interesting. There was a section about Egyptology because many upper class Brits became very interested in it and had large collections of Egyptian artifacts. There was a worksheet that Elie and Isaac got to fill out that helped them learn about what they were looking at in that exhibit. Elie did it all with relish and Isaac lost interest about halfway through. While I was doing that with the older two, GranEde and GranDude took Talia and Leila down to the dress up section. They got the chance to try on quite a few different outfits and looked adorable! When Isaac and Elie were done, we went down and they got to try on the costumes too.

(Isaac refused to put on the *boy* costumes and was pretty much only interested in wearing this.....and holding the parisol.)

At the end we all took a swig of the gross, ahem, strongly flavored mineral waters. We were burping sulfur for quite a while after that. Blarg. Anyway, it was a very nice afternoon learning a bit about the history of Harrogate!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School Daze

The kids have now had three full days of school. They are, from all accounts, loving it. Today we did start to see some exhaustion creeping in, though and so it will be interesting to see how much of a mess they are by the end of the week.

Talia has been settling in very nicely. She was a little hesitant to let me leave on the first day and not at all hesitant today or yesterday. Today she was exhausted by the time I picked her up and so she promptly burst into tears as soon as she saw me. (The given reason for the tears was that her extra orange from snack had disappeared, but I knew she was just plain old tired.) But she still wanted to go back tomorrow, which is a good sign.

Elie and Isaac are making friends and learning their way around very quickly. I think Isaac is feeling unsettled because it is different, but he also is enjoying himself. He doesn't really do change all that well and so I am unsurprised that he is a bit sad that school is different here. All that being said, he felt comfortable enough to raise his hand during a school wide assembly and answer, in front of everyone, a question the head teacher asked. So I think he feels fairly comfortable. And Elie is just doing smashingly. She likes her teacher, enjoys the other girls in the class and really is settling in very well.

We've had nothing but good reports from each of the kids and that makes me feel very relieved. I've also had assurances from the teachers that the kids will be assessed and given the proper set of challenges in reading and maths. I have high hopes that this year will be a lot less worksheet oriented and much more hands on learning. We'll see what happens.

Leila and I are doing just fine. She definitely notices that the big kids aren't around, but she has been enjoying the concentrated mommy time that she's getting all of a sudden. She is also thrilled when we go to pick them up in the afternoon. I am getting adjusted to not having them home with me. The house is awfully quiet, but I have been getting a *bit* more done than I had been. As in all things, it's bittersweet and all about trade offs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This is the Way We Go To School

Tomorrow Elie, Isaac and Talia all have their very first day of school! OH.MY.GOODNESS. I have gotten them their uniforms; blue skirts/trousers, white button up shirts, blue sweatshirts, ties, black shoes, socks/tights, the proper gym kit (or uniform) and the requisit bags. I have labled everything. We've been working with Elie and Isaac on learning their Aleph-Bet so they won't be too far behind and they have done smashingly. And now the big day is finally here!

They are all so incredibly excited, they are almost beside themselves. Everytime anyone mentions school all three of them start up with such an amazing noise! The expression of said excitement usually contains, but is not limited to: singing, yelling, dancing, screaming and the occasional clapping of hands. It is quite impressive. I think Talia may be feeling a little more nervousness than she lets on in public. She'll be going to school full time for the first time (and a year younger than she would have been in the US). It is quite a big transition. But the excitement of the older two seems to have carried her quite well. And I am sure that once she gets there and gets settled into a routine, all her reservations will evaporate.

Elie had a bad dream that her teacher got mad at her for not remembering the teacher's name. Isaac is just excited to have a man teacher! Talia isn't too sure about changing for gym, but is very much looking forward to buying lunch and being able to sit in the same big room as Elie and Isaac.

I am feeling quite nervous myself. I don't know how Talia will do. I feel quite afraid that she will be upset, but I hope not. Is she really big enough for this? Will she be alright? Is this the right choice for her?!?!?

Thankfully, Adam will be with me tomorrow as he gets the day off. Each kid has to go to a different door in the school. They change shoes and leave their gym kits in the cloak room, everyday. So we'll all go together and that will be very nice.

But poor Leila is so sad. Anytime I get out any of the uniform stuff for the big kids, she says "Where mine? I go to school! Where mine for school?!?!" And when we went and picked up the school bags, she started crying that she didn't have one just like theirs! We may have to let her pack a backpack tomorrow morning and hopefully that will avoid a meltdown. I don't know what she is going to do with herself. She and Talia have been fast and tight as of late. They are always together and always coming up with incredibly inventive, intricate, imaginary storylines. She is going to be completely lost when they are not at home with her all day long. Come to think of it, I might be lost too.