Friday, November 16, 2012

An Afternoon Off

Today Rachel's school had an award ceremony to celebrate their first nine-weeks of school so after lunch, Benjamin, Miriam, and I drove over to the school to watch Rachel get her awards. She said she was pretty sure we should come because she was pretty sure she was going to get an award because she always does her best work.

"Do you know what Ms. Reeves said to me the other day when I showed her my work?" she asked me.

"What did she say?" I asked.

"She said, 'Are you going to college next week?' So, you'd really better come to my award ceremony because I'm not even sure I'm going to be in kindergarten anymore after this."

Don't worry; I (gently) set her straight. "Ms. Reeves just meant that you did well," I told her, "Not that she'd be sending you to college; you're not quite ready for college yet."

"When will I be ready for college?"

"Oh, sometime after you get your b's and d's straight," I remarked casually.

The awards ceremony was thrilling for the first five minutes or so, and then the children started to get fidgety. I was good for about five more minutes and then I started to get fidgety—it was as bad as a college graduation—but luckily I had a fussy baby who needed to be bounced in the back of the gym and an extra-fidgety three-year-old (for whom I forgot to pack anything remotely entertaining; we took a couple of programs and fashioned paper birds out of them and all was well in our little corner of the gymnasium).

Rachel got four of five possible awards. I'm sure her missing the last award was merely an oversight because Heisses always win everything! That previous sentence is dripping with sarcasm...just so we're clear. Rachel was actually fairly nervous about today; she wasn't nervous about not getting any awards because she's fairly confident that she does good work (and she really isn't a slacker when it comes to schoolwork) and knew she'd be getting something. That's the part she was worked up about because she knew she'd have to stand up in front of everybody and walk across the stage—and she was terrified to do that. She did just fine and only had to walk up on stage three times; it wasn't terrifying at all because there were a generous number of awards given so kids were moving across the stage like it was a conveyor belt.

The first award Rachel got was for perfect attendance. I was as proud of that award as she was; it meant that we (Andrew and I) had succeeded in getting her up, dressed, and out the door on time every day this school year. Go us!

The second award was for "success in reading and writing." Here she is heading up to collect that award:

The third award was the "blue eagle" award, which was awarded in classrooms. It's a behavior system her school has. You keep green eagles in your nest the whole week and at the end of the week you get a blue eagle, which means you get to go to Fun Friday/The Blue Eagle Party. Sometimes the Blue Eagle kids get to go outside to play on the playground (gasp!) or they get a treat like popcorn or ice cream or get to go to the gym to play games, things like that. If you earn a blue eagle every week then you get the purple eagle award. This is Rachel accepting her purple eagle award:

Please note she's wearing her coat; all the kids had brought their coats because the hallways are outside and their teachers encourage ( and enforce) that the children wear their coats outside because "it's so cold." I, unfortunately, don't offer any consistency in that arena because I still think it's lovely outside.

That was by far the most sought-after (or at any rate it was the least-awarded) award. Rachel was so happy she got it (because she lost one (of two) green eagles one day this semester and was worried that would disqualify her).

They said we could check our students out after the award ceremony and Rachel really wanted to be checked out. She told me about it yesterday to make sure that I'd know for today. "And Mr. Hammond said that we can go home right after the ceremony!" He made the same announcement at the end of the ceremony so I went ahead and checked her out. I've been fretting about that decision all day.

Way to show her education is important.

But we haven't had an afternoon together in such a long time.

She's a crazy emotional child who needs stimulation 24/7—that's why we love full-day kindergarten.

But look how happy Miriam is to see her.

Maybe I'm only supposed to check her out if I actually have a reason.

She spends more awake-time at school than at home; I miss her!

I was driving myself crazy, but it was the first question that was niggling me. Why would they have this ceremony to excite children about having perfect attendance only to have them skip school? Only half our student body is performing at grade level—our new principal's goal is to bump that up to 85% in the next (couple of) year(s). Doesn't dismissing kids early send the wrong message? Don't we want our kids to be devoted to learning?

But then I remembered talking to one of the moms at the school. She's the mother of the boy at our bus stop but I've never met her. She works fulltime while her husband is going to school and being the stay-at-home dad (with some help from his mother when he needs to go to class). I recognized her because she had their baby with her and I recognized him. She said she took the afternoon off so that she could come to the ceremony.

I don't know if they checked their son out of class or not but I imagine that they did. After all, this was her first afternoon off all school year and if I—a stay-at-home mom—was missing spending the afternoon with my daughter, how much more was she wanting to spend an afternoon with her boys?

A lot more. And she did mention that, actually, how it was a really difficult decision for her to go back to work full-time so soon after having a baby (he turns one tomorrow) but that this was right for their family and even though she wanted to be the one to stay home with the baby she's just happy one of the parents got to stay home with him.

Perhaps that's why they allowed the kids to be checked out early—to encourage parents (who'd taken the afternoon off work) to spend some quality time with their kids. I know Thanksgiving break is just around the corner, but I'll bet a lot of parents have to work through that break, too.

Anyway, I don't know why but I do know that we did. And I think both Rachel and I felt a little bit of the rush that comes from "playing hooky," if you will. Not that I would actually know what that feels like because the only times I've ever "played hooky" it's been with permission (like Senior Sluff Day (sluff=skip class, for those of you (like me) who aren't native Utahns (not that I ever got to Senior Sluff Day as a senior, but once when I was a junior I was on the ballroom team, which was comprised of mostly seniors, all of whom skipped school (because it was Senior Sluff Day) so our coach sent us out on a donut run (thrilling tale, I know)).

Miriam had fun waiting for Rachel to come out of her classroom. She enjoyed the kindergarten garden (that's meta).

She also enjoyed the teepees (they had two set up in the little quad between the classrooms).

Once we had Rachel, we headed over to the public library (because what else are you going to do when you're skipping school besides...go to the library?) to return our books and check out new ones. The parking lot was empty, which I rejoiced about as I pulled easily into a stall (parking at the school was not so easy and almost made me cry). I unbuckled Miriam, told the girls to wait for me on the grass, grabbed Benjamin and the diaper bag and the book bag and finally made my way to the grass to join them. I lugged the baby, the diaper bag, and the book bag all the way from the van to the sidewalk, cheering myself for not dropping any of my cargo, and charging toward the automatic doors so that I could barge inside and finally set down that bag of books.

The door didn't open. 

Weird, I thought, and backed up a few steps and approached the doors again. 

The doors still didn't open.

I backed up again, a little further this time, and walked toward the doors again. 

The doors still didn't open.

I backed up again, chanted, "Iftah ya sim-sim!" and then made my approach once again.

The doors still didn't open. There was clearly something wrong with the sensor. Or something.

I noticed a sign saying that the library would be closed next Thursday and Friday (for Thanksgiving) but it didn't say anything about this Friday. I glanced over at the hours and—fun fact!—our library has really awkward hours. Like, for example, they don't open until 2 PM on Fridays. Who knew?!

I pulled out my phone and checked the time. It was 1:50 PM. We had ten minutes. 

I had the baby, the diaper bag, the book bag, and two girls who were running around in crazy circles. Something had to go and fortunately about the same time I decided this I also spotted the outside book receptacle. Rachel helped me return the books one-at-a-time.

Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk!

Seventeen times. Why seventeen? Because Andrew had been in charge of book selection the last time we came to the library and didn't keep track of how many the girls had chosen. When we were patrons at the Orem library we always checked books out in multiples of three (because that's how many books you could place on the self check-out machines at one time) and usually ended up with twenty-one books (with a three-week loan period that's one book per day). My brain loves the number 21 when it comes time to count library books to make sure we have them all, so I panicked slightly when we only returned seventeen but it turns out that was the correct number to return.

The girls ran around playing hide-and-seek (Miriam actually did that thing where kids crouch down in plain sight and cover their eyes while "hiding;" it was hilarious) and climbing on everything in sight.

The girls found twenty-one books to check out in no time flat (I had to keep them from taking the entire Angelina Ballerina collection they had scouted out; we checked out three Angelina books and saved some others for our next visit) and spent the rest of their time trying out the wild furniture. They like the furniture in the Young Adult section the best.


We went home for a snack and then walked over to the park. The girls had a wonderful time playing together—Rachel insisted that they play school because she was missing school, but they played "recess at school" so it was still fun. And I let them do whatever they wanted, which is not a luxury Rachel has during recess. Her school has recess "coaches" which reminds me oddly of prison. I don't think anyone should get in the way of children playing—it's serious business.

Out of our way!
They had fun just being kids. It was a wonderful, sunshiny afternoon for it!


When the schoolbus pulled up and dropped them off at home (Miriam was the driver, Rachel was the passenger) they started a new game called Indian Princess (which was also Rachel's idea).

I let them sing and dance around the playground, climbing on whatever they wanted (even the stuff they maybe weren't necessarily supposed to climb on) while I snuggled sweet Benjamin, who thinks that the playground is the number one best location for a nap (oh, that he thought the same of his bed).

I'm trying a new hairdo because I decided that socks I had in high school could probably safely be considered trash at this point. I chose between two pairs that were on their last legs (pun #1). In the end I chose an aqua coloured pair that, though I adore, were rather threadbare and which I liked slightly less than the other pair I was considering (and hoping that I would get to wear a couple more times) so I went ahead and cut off the toe of the sock and rolled it up so I could try The Sock Bun.

I put my hair up last night after I showered and it worked out well enough, though I could certainly use some more practice. I slept with it up and it still looked decent in the morning so I just left it in all day, just to switch things up from my regular ponytail.

I went to put on a pair of socks this morning and chose the other pair I had been considering destroying in honour of a new hairstyle and pulled them on and discovered that this pair was even more threadbare than the pair I'd cut up last night. There was a hole on the bottom of my sock—darn it (pun #2). I'll just make another bun donut out of that pair of socks since they match my hair much better than the aquamarine socks (this newly thrashed pair of socks, in contrast, are striped tan, burgundy, and black).

Anyway, although it's warm here it still gets a little chilly when the sun starts setting so I gathered up my Indian Princesses and started heading for home.

Unfortunately we got distracted at the swings because when Miriam saw them she remembered how much she loves swinging (and that she had neglected her most beloved piece of playground equipment this visit) so she hopped on for a little swing.

Rachel, who has boundless amounts of energy, crept up behind her, pulled the swing back and launched her into the sky. Miriam was not expecting this (and also prefers baby swings over big-kid swings) and was rather freaked out by the experience.

I suppose it was a blessing in disguise because that was the fastest I've ever seen her abandon a swing in my life. I didn't have to threaten her or bribe her or physically remove her or anything. She willingly continued our homeward path, alongside Rachel (who evidently could not stop jumping around).

Their Indian Princess game lasted the whole way home. Miriam was the princess and Rachel was a female warrior, whose job it was to forage around for pretty things to put in the princess's bouquet (we will work on the definition of "warrior" later). Every time Rachel wanted to make an offering to the princess she'd present her find on bended knee for approval. 

Miriam loved this game until I told her that she couldn't bring the bouquet in the house. She's kind of black and white right now so when I said that she immediately cast the bouquet in the gutter and started crying. I was going to suggest putting it in the playhouse in the backyard or something like that...but I suppose throwing it in the gutter ultimately got rid of it faster (and Miriam typically makes a quick recovery from her fits; this fit was no different and was over by the time we'd walked the rest of the way home).

We finished off the day with poppyseed pancakes and lemon "syrup" for dinner and then read all of the Angelina books in one sitting and a Christmas book (don't tell Andrew) and a chapter from Little House. It was a pretty good day, if I say so myself.

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