Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai: We are Fine. Cyclone: We are Fine.

Mumbai is across the country from us, so we are not in immediate danger (think 1300km, roughly NY to Kansas?). That's not to say the horrors in Mumbai aren't affecting us. Our people are heading to Mumbai to help out, and of course we do have a Consulate there with ~40 of our colleagues.
Read CNN or BBC.
A cyclone hit us yesterday. Cyclone=Hurricane, just in the Indian Ocean intead of the Atlantic (Typhoon is reserved for the Pacific Ocean, but it's the same thing). It hasn't been devistating as far as wind damage, though some large branches have fallen and I haven't seen the roads since I woke up 30 minutes ago, but the rains have flooded everything. Our driveway, carport, yard is a river. The rains are coming in powerful bursts. School is canceled for today. It's the second time since we've been here that school has been out for weather.
So, what has been skipped over lately?
Katherine had her Week Without Walls. The 7th grade trained out to Mysore in the state of Karnataka, and spent 4 full days abusing the King's Park Sanctuary resort, hiking through Nagarhole National Park, rapelling and rock climbing, dipping in a waterfall, tracking animals on safari, and team-building before visiting a Tibetan monastery and Mysore Palace. They took the night train back and didn't seem too worse for wear, but for the mussed hair and slightly stinky clothing. More importantly, Katherine made new friends, had a good friend as one of her roommates, was full of inside jokes and had plenty of stories to share. She saw her first shooting star. She had fun. She came back happy. I can't tell you how nervous I was sending her out there, even equipped with seabands. And yes, she had some moments on the trip. Katherine needs time alone, she needs time to regroup, she needs time to read and just be apart. Not a lot, not even every day, but some. And as we all know about school trips, times of being alone are non-existent. From the bus to the train to the hotel to the activities and meals, everyone is in a group, or at the very very least, has a buddy, and no one sleeps enough or drinks enough or eats enough (even when, ahem, mom packs a week's worth of supplimental nutrition in the suitcase). By Wednesday evening Katherine was crying at nothing and running a fever. She went to bed early and had regrouped enough by morning to get through the busy day. But she did it, and while my fears weren't completely unfounded, she was fine and was happy.
Speaking of being happy, Katherine is so much happier this school year. The big differences being she has friends, and she doesn't pick sides. It was funny to hear her on the phone (she called several times on her trip) about how the girls were all divided and doing the bit "Well, you just go tell HER that I'm blah blah blah" and Katherine would tell her to go say it herself. Katherine is making a big effort to stay out of the confrontations, to realize they are dumb and ever-changing, and to become comfortable with herself and the way she wants to be.
I know many parents will disagree with this next statement, but I'll say it anyway. It's OK for us that our previously straight-A student is now pulling Bs and a couple Cs. Duh, we're not thrilled with the Cs. But she's emotionally healthier now as she seems to have spent 1st quarter developing her friendships and her own self-esteem, and emotional health means more to us than the difference between an A and a B. We're working on the grades, she knows they are her responsibility, and I do think that 2nd quarter will see an improvement. Every one of her teachers at conference time (and I mean - every - single - one) said that Katherine is not just smart but really really smart, and her grades reflect not her brains, but her organization, participation and responsibility. Her participation has improved since then, as we've heard from several of her teachers in the past weeks. We encouraged her math/science teacher to continue to let her help other students in class once her own work is done. She needs to feel useful, and as she finishes her work so far ahead of everyone esle, helping out prevents boredom. We also peeked a glance at the class grades for both Math and Science... not a single A was given. So her Bs in both those classes were actually the highest grades handed out. Her language arts/social studies teacher seems to understand her quite well and says she delivers great oral presentations. Her French teacher says she a sponge and now that she's sitting in the front row she's much more involved.
Band is a funny thing. She's slouchy. She doesn't like to practice (who does?). But she actually plays flute quite well. She can sightread pretty well too. Last night after our weekly Heroes, she came home and played the piano for about 45 minutes. She hasn't played piano since starting the flute last year, but she picked her way through several songs she hadn't played before, with both hands together. It would be nice if it continued. We'll see.
So what about the other kids' conferences? Jonathon has issues with self-control. They aren't getting better. We did discuss his handwriting and I told her about the writing mat and the yoropencil he uses at home. She was intrigued by the idea that lefties develop their letters differently. I also asked her to allow Jonathon to keep an eraser at his seat. She has the kids cross out and continue to avoid massive erasing and torn paper, but for Jonathon he needs an eraser to correct his backwards numbers and letters. Often, he'll notice it's backwards as soon as he's written it, so she agreed.
Rebecca is doing well in school, As and Bs. The big goal for Rebecca will be her reading speed and her spelling. She's made a huge improvement in both over the past few weeks, really making an effort to finish her books by reading every night, even just a chapter. She's my "responsible one" (don't you just hate it when parents label their kids? yeah, me too). When something needs to go to school, I send it with her. When something happens at school, I know she'll call. I can rely on her to think 2 steps ahead and figure things out. She has to really work for her grades, but work she does.
Nicholas' teacher had nothing but positive things to say about him, and she had him totally pegged. He sits back and observes before jumping into any situation, be it school, class, a project, a game, anything. He doesn't like being reprimanded, and withdraws when he is. She commented on how at the beginning of the year he had a stomacheache and headache every day. Now, they're gone. We always say that Nicholas is our homebody. He likes to stay home, and he likes everyone else to stay home too. There's been steady improvement since the beginning of the year, and last week was the final step. He stayed home with what I supposed was pink eye, and I went to work. He was so bored, he kept calling me to ask when he could come to the Consulate (to see the doc). He was so bored, he was relieved it wasn't pink eye and he could return to school the next day. Since then, he says he wants to see his friends, he wants to go to class, and his teacher has noticed the change too. He didn't even withdraw when she reprimanded him this week, and instead completed his work and showed her straight off. It's only taken 8 years, but Nicholas is finally coming into his own.
That's it for now. I really really have to get my turkey in the oven and the sides acookin'. Thank goodness I did the pies last night. Have a wonderful Turkey Day, and we give thanks for all our blessings, espcially on this day of uncertainty.

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