Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First grade begins.

In recent weeks, I have felt the subtle change in season.

Suddenly, I am paying attention to the size of my children's feet. Shoes aren't a passion of mine, but this time of year, I pay that particular section of Ross close attention.

The back pack that was used for summer adventures in the backyard is returned to it's proper hook.

The process of cleaning out her closet, trying on the new set of hand-me down clothes and then finding said clothes a place in her drawers is completed.

A shopping trip, with a 30 % coupon in hand, is made; just the two of us. (!!!!)

Having neglected my calendar for months, I pull it down and record important, school related, dates. I write the words, "Back to School Night." I welcome the pang of excitement. It's better than the alternative feeling of numb disbelief.

One task remains on my list. She needs a lunchbox. Was this delay intentional? The lunchbox, you see, is a tangible representation that she will be gone for seven hours a day. My heart sinks. She is not a die hard Hello Kitty fan, but I choose that theme anyway. I anticipate that it will make her very happy.

In addition to the adjustment of the time spent away from home, Eliza's day will be split between two classrooms. She will have two fantastic teachers. The most obvious distinction between the two classrooms is that Ms. Chen will teach one half of Eliza's day in the Chinese language (more information found here).

Around the time that our family was making the decision to move back from South Carolina to Utah, there was a lot of buzz in Utah's media about dual language programs. Having a child preparing to enter Kindergarten that year, I was intrigued. I began researching all I could about these programs; searching out the pros and the cons. Impressed out of my mind, I felt strongly that Eliza would be a great candidate.

While waiting for our home to sell, not knowing where we'd be planting our family permanently, I realize that most dual language programs begin in Kindergarten. The selection process, or lottery, typically takes place in the Spring. She would be ineligible to apply by the time we were settled somewhere. Not to mention, the odds of us choosing a home near a school with a dual language program was slim. I let go of the idea as best I could.

At some point, I learn that a small number of schools (like two or three) begin their dual language programs in the first grade. Doing a little more homework, I narrow in on the homes within those boundaries. And what do you know, that particular search led me to our home. Months would pass before we would walk through it for the first time. Fortunately enough, the price would fall into our price range by the time we'd sell our home in South Carolina. Despite these encouraging developments, there were still challenges along the way. One major one being the fact that we were under contract, wheels set in motion, to buy another house... Andrew's dream house to be precise. Yikes! It was an intense few weeks. For the sake of our marriage, I won't delve into the detail of how that miracle came to pass. It wasn't for the Chinese program that we chose this home. It was a definite, "pro" on our list, but not a must. In fact, it didn't weigh heavily on our final decision at all.

Other factors brought about our home purchase. More than our list, I'd say that the time spent here this past year has been the greatest indicator that we are in the right place. And for that peace, I am thankful. This morning, after walking away from Eliza who was already busy working on her first school project, I was smothered with a solid dose of the, "This is right" feeling.

With any emotionally charged change, I over prepare, over think and over analyze. Eliza's lunch was packed last night. The quick note I'd planned to slip in with her food evolved into a love letter filled with the kind of sentiment she and I both enjoy. Excited to see what I packed her, she opened her lunchbox this morning before I had a chance to tell to her to wait until she was at school to read the note. Walking into the kitchen she looks up and says,

"Thanks for the note, Mom!"

Last night as we were driving home from Andrew's parents house, I asked Eliza what she was thinking about.

"I'm filling my head with thoughts of you so I'll be able to remember you when I'm away from you tomorrow." Having melted into my seat right then, Andrew had a hard time getting me out of the car when we got home.

Eliza woke up excited for the first grade! Again, wanting to be on top of things in an attempt to calm my crazy Mom feelings, Eliza was the first student to sign in. I wasn't that much earlier than her classmates. Waiting in the hall, it was a treat watching Eliza greet her friends from last year.

"Guess what?!" Eliza asked her friends. "I broke my arm this summer!" And so it began. It was nice seeing the Mom's I got to know last year in the hallway too. The softies empathized with each other. Together we looked on in admiration at the Mother's who boldly stated that they were thrilled school was once again beginning. I can say that I have hope that it gets easier with each child, but who knows for sure. Right?

Before I wrap this up, I have to say that school doesn't begin for the entire school until Wednesday, August 22. This week, the children entering the immersion program are participating in a program designed to help them acclimate to being in an environment where they are exposed to all things Chinese. They will be playing a lot of Mulan themed games to help them grow familiar with their new routine. Eliza won't begin spending time with her other teacher until a week from this Wednesday, when school begins for everyone else.

As for me, she is gone. Official or not, school has started. This is the big league now. Wish her (read: me) luck!

And, as an added bonus, she ended up being assigned to sit next to one of her best friends from Kindergarten. I'm happy that her class is full of great kids.
Off she goes!


Paparazzi Boutique said...

So sweet, Ali. Your writing is beautiful. I'm so glad Ms. Chen is back to teaching this year. She was Aleigha's 1st grade teacher in the Chinese immersion program several years ago and is by far, the best teacher we've ever come across. She is a beautiful woman and you and your daughter will love her!

Kelsi {John, Jake, Georgia, Naomi} said...

what an exciting adventure for her to learn chinese! (can you even believe our babies are in 1st grade?!?! jacob starts on thursday. i'm not one bit happy about it... well, maybe one bit but not anymore than that. i love having him here with me! let the countdown for summer begin!)

Jessica said...

Chinese!??!! That's wild. How cool for Eliza! I am interested to hear more about it. Yay for school!