Friday, October 20, 2006

Diwali Weekend

On Friday I was up at my usual time, about 6:15, with Nicholas and Rebecca right behind me.

I took them and Jonathon (once Nicholas woke him) to the playground/garden park next door. It's a lovely green space, but the sun gets strong really early and I hadn't paid attention to how little shade is there. The kids enjoyed themselves and attracted attention from passers-by, but we only managed to stay for about 30-45 minutes before everyone was ready to go home and cool off. While walking back, Ian called wondering where we were. He and Katherine had checked the tennis courts and the pool with no luck. Thank goodness for cell phones. Once home Rebecca asked for pancakes, so we made a midmorning breakfast when the cook arrived with a painter in tow. I had been waiting to get the information on other painters but it's time to get it done before our boxes arrive. The painter took a look at the rooms and haggled over a job price. They'll start Monday morning at 9 a.m. and after three or four days and two coats of paint in six rooms, it should look fabulous in here. I'm excited about having it all finished so we can put the fun touches up. I'll take pictures, promise. If the boys room turns out how I hope, it'll be a really fun room.
After breakfast, Ian and I went to the school for teacher conferences while the kids stayed home and watched Harry Potter. We returned just as the movie ended. Overall, the conferences went well and there were no surprises. My kids are consistent. Jonathon's teacher is happy to have him in her class, he has what's termed "infectious enthusiasm." He received his lowest grade (if a CheckMinus is a grade) in P.E. and Music. Takes after his mom on the first one at least. The kid trips on his own feet, but I still feel it's a little much to even grade Kindergarten P.E. and Music. He says he has fun in those classes and isn't that where the "grade" should lie? He's in a reading group and doing well with numbers and happilly his little buddy (and our neighbor) is a leftie too, so the two of them are all confused writing backwards together.
We moved to Ms. Becky's room. Ms. Becky just loves having Rebecca in her class. Since she's a rule follower and adamant about everything being fair, she's a gift to teachers. Her teacher's goal for this next quarter is to have her try a little more out of the box thinking, trying things even if they might not work, for Rebecca is hesitant to do anything that hasn't already been proven to be correct. Becca loves share time, enjoys speaking publicly, helps the ESL kids, and is a leader within her age group. It doesn't translate to home where her sister doesn't like being told what to do by an 8 year old, or her borthers who get really tired of always being bossed around. But in her class, she shines.
Katherine's teacher is not a very friendly, out-going person, what Katherine has been really needing and lacking the past few years. In fact she's rather prickly. Strict is good, but being compassionate and understanding and warm is also important. Katherine needs someone who's expects a lot, but also is someone she feels she can trust. Maybe next year, though Katherine has already mentioned missing doing school at home. She has lots of friends which, IMO, is worth its weight in gold after last year. Of course, we're still facing down the disorganization bear. Year 5 of hearing how she can't find things she needs and worse, doesn't turn in assignments she's already completed because she can't find them. Her belongings are discovered all around the school and her desk is always a disaster. I am open to any and all creative suggestions. We've tried all the obvious ones. After all that though, she did get a report card packed with As and Bs. Her academics really are good, she just can't find anything.
Last, we met with Nicholas's teacher. I feel better after having spoken with her, as the report card was very limited on the information it gave. It stated he's at grade level, which is good, but I felt was a little heavy-handed with expectations for things like handwriting. Nicholas's handwriting is pretty bad, but I think also pretty typical for a 1st grader. After talking with her though, he's in the top reading group and the top math group, so really he is doing fine. Teachers do start low in order to have areas to improve and I'm all for that.
Many of the Consulate families are not happy with this school and Ian and I know it all relates to where you're coming from. If you're coming in from Cairo, AISC is lacking. If you're arriving from Togo, it's a blessing. But I also think we need to look at where we are in the World. Chennai is not Cairo or Bangkok or Beijing. Chennai doesn't have the same draw for teachers, it doesn't have the same enrollment numbers, it doesn't have the same demands placed on it. But for being in Chennai, this school meets the need admirably. What I also realize is that no school is going to be perfect and no school is going to meet every one of our personal requirements. Where it's lacking, it's up to us to fill in the gaps whether it's music or American History. And honestly, I'm OK with that.
Once we returned home and had some lunch, the vet came by to give the cats their shots. One more visit for rabies next month and they'll be done for the year. The cats are doing well and the vet is really nice, you can tell she adores animals. A home visit with shots for Rs950. About $20. She even showed me where a patch of catnip is growing right outside our gate. I should get some potted for indoors.
Then Ian received a phone call and went to the Consulate for a little bit. He's duty officer until Wednesday. When he came back, we took take the kids to the nearby Snake Farm. Actually that was our plan, but right next door is the Children's Park with a mini zoo. We heard a hyena laugh. Not only do they look evil, they sound evil. Those are some ugly ugly creatures. There also were monkeys, some running about the park. Deer, some running around the park. Snakes, none running about the park that we saw. Lots of big birds, parrots, cockatiels, etc. Some of them had escaped their cages and seemed to be desperately trying to get back in. In the middle of the park is a playground, so the kids spent time there.
Since this is a very conservative Indian state (we all know the story of kissing not allowed in movies), dating and mixed couples are not seen out and about, but they are plentiful in the park. Nearly every bench was occupied by cuddling couples. Even more intriguing were the even-numbered groups of boys and girls playing was seemed like Blind Man's Bluff. I guess any excuse to be able to touch a member of the opposite sex. No chaperones in sight.
So we came home and gave out little gifts to our househelp. If Ian needs to do anything for work he can call the Duty Driver to come get him, so he's not stuck with our driver on holiday. Everyone is on vacation, I'm hoping it'll be quiet all weekend.

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