Sunday, September 08, 2013

Back to School, Back to School

This week marked the beginning of the school year for three of the five of us as well as a couple of milestones for the other two. Landon and Eliza started school, Mike started a new semester, Hallie received her Thirty-One Gifts start-up kit and sent her resignation letter to the Neighborhood Club, and Fergus had his first visit to the vet. Upheaval all around!

Monday, September 2 – Labor Day dawned sunny and a little cool. Hallie ran a few last-minute back-to-school errands with the kids in the morning. 
A typical scene of Eliza and her public disdain for her shoes

Our family spent most of the afternoon with many of the branch members who live in the Pointes. There was yummy grilled food, nice weather, good conversation, swimming, and fun games. Even the missionaries joined us for the festivities.

Great form! 

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. In this case, it was a face plant on the pool deck. 

Tuesday, September 3 – Today was Landon’s big day, his first day of kindergarten. Where have the years gone? Our big man was ready to go with his lunch packed up and his shoes tied tight. The four of us walked to his school in a bit of a rush, getting to his pick up/drop off door just as the bell rang. We had read we needed to be at the back door, but we needed to be at the east front door. Good thing there were signs posted.

All the kids and their big people followed the teachers to their rooms, dropped off their supplies, and put their bags into their lockers. Landon was the first one in the door and seated, eager to get started! Mom and Dad got a little misty seeing their big boy take to school like a duck to water. We’re grateful for the start he got over at Barnes and Sunny Days. Still, for whatever reason, this year seems different, like it’s for real that he’s off in this new world, and it has us as parents feeling a little tender. We look forward to seeing him grow with Mrs. Humphrey and the other Defer teachers and staff.

And just like that, he's gone! 

First one in class! 

So far, his class size is quite small, just 14 students! More are sure to follow, but we like the student-teacher ratio.

His room includes the lower of the two bays, center right. 

Defer Elementary, built 1924

He only had a half day, so before we knew it, we had to turn around and pick him back up. He ran straight to Mom, yelling, “Mommeee! I missed you!” but we could see that he had enjoyed his time. Mrs. Humphrey gave each child in her class a sunflower with a note, a very thoughtful gesture. Landon seemed a bit subdued after his walk home, and he, Mom, and Eliza spent the rest of the day keeping things low-key.

On the other hand, Mike’s day was just getting started. He went up on campus and advised students and tried to do a little writing before starting the first class of the semester. As has been the case for nearly 20 years now, Mike’s work day begins in earnest in some way or another from 5 to 9 PM. If we count his tutoring jobs in high school, the late nights working go back even further. Actually, it’s pretty shocking to realize that little piece of information. No wonder those early mornings teaching elementary school after nights teaching adult school were such a grind!

Wednesday, September 4 – Today was Eliza’s big day, her first day of “real” preschool and Mike’s first day of getting both kids ready in time to get out the door by 8 AM. First he dropped Landon off at Defer, and then he took Eliza up to Barnes School.

Eliza has gone to Barnes School for several months now, but it started as in-home visits then moved to 1-2 days a week of Play and Say with either Mom or Dad present. This is the first time we’re leaving her all on her own. Hallie was able to take an extended break from work to join Mike and Eliza. She had a harder time leaving Eliza than Landon. Part of the issue has to do with Eliza’s speech delay. She doesn’t share all of the same types of speech or language delays as the other children in class. For us it’s a real education in the great work the teachers do as they work with children who have mild, moderate, and severe learning disabilities and in the stories of the parents of these amazing little people. We’re sure she will benefit from the program, but she doesn’t have the same level or degree of issues as many of the other kids. We’ll just keep monitoring the situation like we did with Landon. One little girl had a very hard time being left behind, but the teachers did a great job consoling her, so it was comforting knowing that Eliza will be with caring adults. Soon enough, Eliza’s first day was done. She fell asleep on her way home. Long day!

Hallie received her Thirty-One Gifts starter kit in the mail today, so she is another step closer to being all set to party!

Landon had his first full day of school today. School goes from 8:20 AM to 3:38 PM, which we think is surprisingly long. People around here seem unfazed by it. In fact, we were among the few parents who actually wanted our child in a half-day program. We could go on about the merits of half-day vs. full-day programs, but we won’t. Landon seemed happy to be done with his day and to see us waiting for him, and he seemed to enjoy his school activities. He had enough energy to go to gymnastics and do his thing. Hallie took the kids to run some errands beforehand while Mike helped the sister missionaries teach Otto about the priesthood.
First classwork sample

While Hallie was out at gymnastics with Landon, Sis. Decker came by with Sis. Beaty. Fortunately, Sis. Beaty was able to come back a little later and visit Hallie after everyone got home from the gym. 

Thursday, September 5 – We saw some of the advantages of having both kids in school this morning. Hallie got a new do, and Mike went to the dentist before work. Both had a positive experience.

In the afternoon, Eliza and Lewis the dog played in the front yard while Landon and Owen got to play together for the first time since school started. Owen goes to a different elementary school than Landon, so afternoons are their only opportunity for play time.

Landon brought home his first major samples of in-class work today, an "All About Me" book. Here are some sample pages:

We asked who was missing. He said he didn't draw Eliza. Hmmm.

He also brought home bug bites from the back yard or the wood chips in the playground. Hallie took him over to the urgent care to figure out what to do. Before going to bed, we all played hospital with calamine lotion, bandages, and Band-Aids for everyone.

Friday, September 6 – Mike’s morning routine with the kids went well thanks to Hallie having prepared Landon’s lunch when she got up before work. School is less than 10 minutes away walking, but we will probably have to take the kids to school by car in order to make both Landon’s 8:20 start and Eliza’s 8:40 start. Landon complained about having to go to school before we went out the door, but he was fine once he got there. Mike had his first experience seeing how playground pecking orders perpetuate themselves into adulthood as he observed the ways in which parents grouped as they waited for the teachers to arrive. Time to learn how to prattle on about car upholstery colors and other equally engaging topics. . . .

Eliza had a hard time being left at preschool this morning. Fortunately, one of the paraprofessionals consoled her for a little bit until she was ready to go find something fun to play with.

After dropping Eliza off at school, Mike took Fergus to the veterinarian. We thought he was going to get neutered today, but since he has never been to the vet, he just had his first checkup and vaccinations. Fergus weighs a healthy five pounds and has a great personality according to both the clinician and Dr. Platz. We like to think so too!

Hallie sent her resignation letter to the Neighborhood Club. While she has enjoyed interacting with the members, she looks forward to sleeping in until closer to dawn again.

Hallie and Landon attended little Layla’s first birthday party down at Windmill Pointe Park. Mike and Eliza had to miss out because, unlike other days this week, Eliza refused to take her midday nap. She fell right to sleep at around 6:30 and (mostly) slept through the night.

Saturday, September 7 – After a relaxing morning of cinnamon toast and eggs, we chased Fergus out from under the bushes outside the house when he got out not once, not twice, but three times. He has had a taste for the outdoors all summer long, but he seemed on a mission to stay out today.

Later, Mike and Hallie cleaned the kitchen while Landon finished up a homework assignment and Eliza did an art project of her own. Hallie prepared some freezer meals while Mike helped Landon finish up his All About Me collage.

First homework assignment

Mike then took the kids on a bike ride down to the farmers market, keeping a sharp eye out for that sly kitty. We continued the bike riding in the back alley when Zoë came out to play. Good thing we went out when we did, because we got rained on in the afternoon.

Handstands and inverted pushups? Yeah, we got those.

As a kind of last-minute opportunity, Hallie babysat the kids who she’ll start working with on Monday this afternoon with Landon while Mike looked after Eliza at home. Mike and Eliza went up to visit for a bit before Mike brought Landon back home so he could put the kids to bed. Hallie ended up getting home later than she expected. Hopefully the Monday gig will be more predictable.
Both kids decided to take their flying toys for real flights. To the left, Landon with Dusty from Planes. To the right, Eliza with a bluebird. Perhaps Dad should concentrate on driving. 

Sunday, September 8 – A humid morning blossomed into a lovely fall day. We had the general session of stake conference today. The techies among the stake clerks were able to arrange a webcast of the session to our building on Detroit’s east side from the stake center in Bloomfield Hills, helping us avoid the long round trip. As a result, we had a well-attended session at our own building and our congregants saved a little time and money. Technology can be pretty awesome! Later on, Mike went on Elders Quorum visits and Hallie and the kids watched the classic kids movie Benji. Somewhere Fergus fell asleep, dreaming blissful kitten dreams of escaping into the front yard and exploring the world outside. 
Mike found this eavesdropping spider. They grow 'em big in the D! 

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