June 5, 2016: International Day!

Well, it’s been a pretty mundane week, especially since I just blogged on Monday. But we did have one super-fun event: International Day!

Every year, all the second-grade classes at Theo’s school work very hard for a two-day event called International Day. There are five second-grade classes this year (yes, his school is huge!), and each one took a different country. Theo’s class did Australia, so for weeks they’ve been preparing to be All Things Aussie! Theo kept coming home from school saying, “We’ve got so much to do, Mom…so much to do for International Day!” And he’d tell me all about whatever animal or fact they were working on that day. (“Did you know a nosy person is called a sticky beak in Australia, Mom?” “Did you know the kangaroo rat lives in the Ayers Rock area of Australia, Mom?”) And the other parents I talked to said the same thing—their kids came home talking about how very, very much work they had to do to get ready for International Day. It was clear from hearing the kids talk just how much effort they were putting into this event and how proud they were of all of their hard work.

And boy, did it ever show! I volunteered to bake the Lamingtons (Australian cakes) for Theo’s class and to work two shifts in the classroom on Friday, and when I walked in, I was dazzled by their transformed classroom! A 1950s-era schoolroom had been transformed into an amazing continent! One entire wall was turned into the Great Barrier Reef, complete with dozens of animals and life forms that live in the reef, carefully created and painted by the kids, along with a carefully written fact card about each one. Overhead, the ceiling had been hung with aqua-colored gauze, with balloon jellyfish hanging and sea turtles swimming above. Another wall had been turned into the Ayers Rock region, with all of the animals native to that region carefully created by students and with fact cards about each one. Another wall was devoted to Aboriginal-style art that the children had created. The white board had been transformed into the Sydney Harbor, complete with the famous Opera House. And the back wall was covered in Australian flags created by the students, as well as a Koala Corner with all sorts of koalas created by the kids.

Each student had also created and decorated a suitcase to carry on their travels, as well as a passport to get stamped at each country they “visited.” Throughout Friday, they moved from classroom to classroom, visiting Italy, Greece, Kenya, and China (as well as, of course, Australia). At each classroom they learned about the country, did a craft, heard a story or book from the country, and sampled a regional food from the area. And of course, they did all of this while dressed in clothing appropriate to the country they were representing.

This last part presented a slight challenge: We didn’t find out about the need to wear khakis and a white shirt until less than 48 hours before the event. Theo doesn’t own khakis or a white shirt. And just running out and getting them is a pain, because it’s a 30-minute drive to the closest store that would likely carry them. It’s been hot and uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to drive 30 minutes (or more!) at rush hour just to go to Target to buy an outfit he’d wear exactly once (he refuses to wear anything but basketball shorts now, so I guarantee the khakis would go unworn except on International Day), so instead I ordered them off Amazon and paid for rush delivery.

Except one problem: Because of Memorial Day, I was thrown off on what day it was, and it turned out that even with rush delivery, the clothing wouldn’t get there on time. Crud! By then I had spent $25 on the darn outfit, plus $8 to rush shipping, and I really wasn’t about to drive to Target and spend another $25. Crud, crud, crud!

But then we were saved. Every Wednesday, Theo gets out of school early (around noon), and we pick up sandwiches and walk to the park to eat them. There’s usually some kids from his class there, so he plays and we eat before heading home. This Wednesday, his classmate and fellow Cub Scout Evan was there with his mom, who I know and like. She confessed that she was thrown into a tizzy with the late notice on the clothing for International Day and had to pull out the old bins of clothes from when her older son was Evan’s age to try to find some khakis. I laughed and said, “Don’t feel bad—Theo won’t even be wearing them on Thursday because of my mix-up on ordering!” And then she told me that in going through the bins, she had found a second pair and we were welcome to borrow them.

Whew!! She saved my bacon! I swung by her house later and picked them up, and all was well. Theo didn’t have a white shirt, so I just took his old shirt from Sam’s most recent Step Up for Down Syndrome walk and turned it inside out so the logo wouldn’t be showing. Voila! White shirt! And then when the Amazon package finally arrived, I was able to just slap a return label on it without even opening it and send it back, so I’m only out the $8 for shipping. Not so bad!

Of course, the outfit drama didn’t end there. I showed up to volunteer for my shifts on Friday, and I realized that every other mother was dressed in khakis and a white shirt—except one lone mother, who also clearly hadn’t gotten the message that we were supposed to dress Aussie if we were volunteering! Wearing a dark-blue hippie-chic top and denim capris, I looked rather out of place. I texted Chris, mortified, that I had worn the wrong outfit, and he replied, “Just tell them you’re an American tourist.” HA!

Anyway, the other mother not in khaki confided to me, “I was so happy to see you walk in so that I wasn’t the only one dressed wrong!!” Ha ha—glad I could make someone’s day! (As it turned out, Theo’s teacher had forgotten to include in the email that volunteers should dress Aussie as well. I guess the other eight mothers had just somehow figured that out on their own. Yeah, I see now where Theo gets his nonintuitive nature from—his mama!)

Anyway, the kids had a ton of fun and were so proud of their hard work, and it was really neat to see how they had all worked together to bring this fantastic day together! For all of the bad rap the public schools get (and I’ll be the first to admit that I have my gripes about them), they really do do some cool things, and I know the teachers work very hard to make learning fun and interesting for our kids. It’s not all testing all the time. I could certainly do with less testing (not really a fan of that at all), but the teachers put in such effort to try to make the rest of learning as much fun as possible for the kids, and it shows. Theo and his classmates were practically glowing over their fun day.

As long as I’m on the subject of school, let me say that in less than a week, we will have a newly minted third-grader in the house! Theo’s last day of second grade is Friday. And I can’t even believe it, but he made it the whole year without once saying “I hate school” or “I don’t want to go to school.” This is truly a first! As close as he got was saying, “I like school, but I don’t like homework.” Fair enough—I don’t like homework either!

I give a lot of credit to his teacher: He absolutely loved her, and he’s actually sad to be finishing up her class on Friday. I truly wish we could bring her with us to third grade! This has been such a successful year for him—he has made so much progress in so many areas, and he has matured a lot. I’ve actually been mulling over a blog post about this season of calm that we’re in right now. For the first time in years, Theo just seems calm and happy and content most of the time. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his bad days or challenging times—like any kid, he does. But overall, he is largely content right now, which has really, really been a blessing. I would like to bottle up age eight and keep it forever, I think! Eight is a good age; eight is mostly delightful.

Other than International Day, it was kind of a ho hum, normal week. And hotter than Hades. We got into the triple digits, which was not fun. Thankfully, our ghastly HOA dues include the use of a swimming pool, and we went in almost every evening. Theo is swimming very confidently now, and Sam enjoys splashing around, although he’s still too darn small for the flotation gear that was recommended for him. We’re making do with a small life jacket that fits him. It so happens that if we wait until about 6:45, the entire pool is shaded so that I don’t have to worry about my snow-white children burning in the sun. It’s lovely! So that’s been our evening ritual of late.

On Saturday we escaped the triple-digit heat by going to Sausalito to our favorite children’s museum. I found a Groupon for 60 percent off regular admission—wahoo!! The boys played hard for about three hours before Sam was pooped and we had to drag them out. Much like his brother, Sam didn’t want to admit he was pooped, but he was. All that playing will wear a boy out….

I find it fascinating to watch how Sam plays, when I think back to how Theo did. Theo was our first, of course, so I really had no expectation of what kids typically did. So the fact that Theo was like a ping-pong ball, flying around children’s museums from one exhibit to the next, barely stopping for a breath, didn’t give me any pause. Every so often he’d find something that interested him, and then he’d be really focused on it for a very long time—like an hour or something. But in general, he just flew from one thing to another.

Sam, on the other hand, plays in what I think is probably a more typical fashion. He finds something that interests him, and he’ll play with it for 10 or 15 minutes before moving on to the next item of interest. We were at the museum for nearly three hours, and I think Sam played in about five different areas in that time. Theo, on the other hand, was all over the place. Two boys, same family…two very different methods of exploration/play. It fascinates me!

And on Sunday, we headed down to visit Grandma Kathy and Papa. That is, after a lovely incident in which our sixty-day-old smoke detector went off and proclaimed “FIRE! FIRE!!!” when there was no fire anywhere. Sigh…better to have no fire than a fire, of course, but it was a little disconcerting! We returned it to Home Depot for a replacement, so hopefully we won’t have that problem again.

Sunday was still quite warm, so we mostly stayed inside at Grandma and Papa’s. We did peek at their new backyard, which is more than halfway landscaped now—it looks fabulous! And Sam had a good time playing with a Thomas the Train matching game that Grandma Kathy had found. Here’s a video of him matching. I was quite excited to see how well he could do it! I laid out three boards that each contained nine pictures of engines from Thomas, and he would draw a card, examine it carefully, and place it in the correct spot on the three boards. I really am impressed by his attention and how quickly he picks up some things! When the first things you hear about your child are everything they supposedly won’t be able to do, things like this are just extra exciting! At the very end he actually puts the Diesel card on the Diesel 10 space (which is a different engine), but you can see how he’s gotten the idea and is pretty good at the matching thing!

If you haven’t already ready it, I had a midweek post about human kindness; click here to read it. I also had a post about an old friend of mine; click here if you want to read it. I’ve long wanted to talk about him and just hadn’t done it. This week, a somewhat related discussion with another friend inspired me to finally put my thoughts about his life into words.

And with that, I’ll sign off for this week! Happy June!

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