Changing Places – We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

We’re beginning week 3 in our new home, neighborhood, and schools.  How are we doing?
V couldn’t wait to go to school on the first day.  After she got over her indignation over being stared at on our visit the week before, she was anticipating all the attention the new girl gets, as she jealously witnessed firsthand in her old school earlier this year.  I picked her up 6 and a half hours later and she was happy and chattering about new friends Emily, Emily, and Chloe (my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl… ) and showing me her “Welcome to our school” cards from the class.
O, as expected, was a little more apprehensive.  The night before he was tearful and worried, and I admit that on top of the diabetes management, I didn’t sleep well.  We walked into school together and met with the guidance secretary who would give him his schedule and go over it with him, introduce him to his “buddy” for the day – a shifty-eyed kid named Brock who was new last year and has moved “lots of times.”  Then it was time to say goodbye as he was led away by the guidance counselor for a school tour before classes started.  I reminded him of the pickup procedure and where I would be parked.
Things roll a bit differently in these schools.  In the old elementary school, the teachers walked their classes out to the buses and made sure they were on the right bus – here, the students walk themselves out.  Parent pickup is a signup sheet every day where you sign your kid out and wait in the cafeteria for them to come down the hall.  There’s no “matching” student to parent.  In the old middle school, dismissal was for all students simultaneously.  Here, bus riders are dismissed first.  Then, after the buses pull away, the car riders and the walkers (because the school is actually in town) are dismissed.  Again, no matching of student to parent – and we just line up in our cars and wait for the kids to come out and find us.
Educationally, Maryland schools are reputed to have been ranked #1 for the last 5 years according to Education Weekly.  And my kids are really getting a sense of what #1 tastes like.  O was worried about getting into a high school math class like he had been in, and after a handful of discussions regarding his math level and being challenged, he was placed in the only available option here:  Advanced Math for 7th grade.  Once he started – albeit in medias res – then he became stressed over not being able to follow what was being taught.   He didn’t understand.  Every day was stressful – he says because of math.  You gotta understand something about my kid – he wants to be successful.  I mean, all kids do, but my kid doesn’t want to do something unless he’s sure he can be successful.  I can pinpoint the exact time of his life, to the day, when this became reality – but, I won’t call out ancient parenting mistakes.
Anyway, he has found his way – without my intervention… and is doing well.  Yesterday I received an email from his math teacher welcoming us to the district and offering any help he can in regards to O’s education and success.  It brought a great big smile to my face in the middle of the Comcast office where I waited 30 minutes to return equipment.  He still insists he’d rather stay home than go to school, but he’s learning and realizing that other schools teach material differently – and sometimes better.
He is loving gym class – a place that was once the bane of my adolescent existence – he entered just as they were playing parts of football and he came happily home the first day to tell me he’d been tackled.  And I got right back up!! This is so not what I ever thought I’d hear him say.  Today they played a game called Capture the Frisbee, the same game they played in his old school but there was called Capture the Cow.  This made me laugh so hard I almost peed myself.  (Our old town is a traditionally large farming community.)
Meanwhile, back in grade school – my daughter failed a basic geography test.  I mean, so basic that she couldn’t properly distinguish continent from country, and she couldn’t place herself on two of the four maps.  She did correctly place herself on a map of Maryland.  WTF???  I was appalled.  And frustrated to the point of tears –which my dear husband had the pleasure of walking into after a long day of work – because how could my daughter not know these things?  I’d have understood her confusion over Maryland, IF she’d had any.  But it was the only one she got completely correct.  And then I began to wonder what the H she was learning in her old school.
All frustration aside, it’s been tough navigating the waters of a new “home.”  While we have moved in, we are still cleaning up the former tenant’s path of destruction – the rec room downstairs is musty and dirty beyond words (to my standards), and everything we moved from the former house that didn’t have an immediate place in this one went down there for some later “redistribution.”  The dishwasher’s control panel is malfunctioning and so I have been hand-washing dishes.  The internet is pretending to be possessed and refuses to remain seamlessly connected, so that I am forever restarting the modem.  And when I do, I hear, “Mom – the internet’s not working!” in a voice that was made for loudspeaker announcements.
Stink bugs.  We have stink bugs.  There were thousands of them hovering at every doorway and window on the house, suddenly appearing on curtains and climbing walls, chewed up and spit out by the cat, slipping silently into cars and making little girls scream like murder in the backseat and, until recently, making me feel like I’d accidentally fallen into a starring role in some old Hitchcock film.  And suddenly, they are … gone.  (Cue the creepy music.)
The dogs moved back with us the day after our big move, which we were thoroughly not ready for… and Sabra the crazy brown poodle cried for hours after the love of her life, Moses, left for the home they once shared.  Both dogs are in dire need of grooming and smell like a wrestler’s ass crack, and every time they go outside they come in covered in burrs.  The first night they were up and down, pacing and licking (a sound that to me rivals nails on a chalkboard) and finally… Pi vomited on our brand new area rug at about 4 a.m.
Todd got up early one weekend morning to whack the source down.  BUT – I am so not thrilled with the amount of dirt that accompanies two dogs with free run in the backyard.  I haven’t vacuumed this much since the two long-haired, couch loving cat days.  I thought my upchuck days were over.  Think two proper poodles don’t eat grass like cows and regurgitate just minutes after reentering the house??  You are wrong.  Dead wrong.
Oliver has made a full recovery from his harrowing journey here and, as I expected, is enjoying his newfound land of the lost.  He disappears for hours and I have no idea where he is.  I have searched the house over for him and turned up nary a whisker.  However, he is still wearing his bell-carrying collar… so we always know when he’s around.  His first late night investigation elicited a thunderous clap that rang through the house, and my follow up investigation revealed a large piece of crown molding he had knocked down from the top of the kitchen cabinets onto the ceramic tile floor.   And in true form, he sat there gazing at me and nonchalantly licking his paw like he’d done nothing to awaken the entire house at 3:30 a.m.  He has, like the girls, tested out his boundaries with what he can get away with:  there will be no lounging on the dining room or kitchen tables, and the girls have learned  are learning that their stinky selves will not be permeating furniture and beds here.
The neighborhood is a wonderfully quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac where the fastest car whizzes by at a whopping 20 mph, and there is apparently no shortage of intrigue and fodder for a writer’s mill.  A police officer who planted traps around the neighborhood to catch the stray cats who dared to shit on his driveway where his little girls play.  There’s a house that was foreclosed some 3 years ago with its front screen door slightly askew on its hinges and gaping open, the backyard like a jungle but the front mysteriously upkept.  And the unmistakable animosity between the two neighbors to its right, as evidenced by the 12-foot wall erected between them.  There’s more.  There’s got to be more.  And I can’t wait.

One thought on “Changing Places – We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

  1. Pingback: Three Years Later | The Tara Chronicles

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