Not clever and popular, but still perfect

It went well yesterday with Katie's teacher. While she didn't tell me that Katie is popular and bright, she did demonstrate that she really knows my child. I find this immensely reassuring. If Miss Fry had told me that Katie was doing well, I would have left happy but a little unsettled, worrying if I'd just been appeased. Instead I was told that Katie could work more on her writing, could improve on building blocks, and is finally coming out of her isolationist and exclusive relationship with another little girl. That all sounds like my Katie. She can read forever, so we decided she didn't need any more work on that. Her writing is fairly limited, only being expressed in letters between herself and the aforementioned friend. (This has since escalated to giving barrettes and hair ribbons, which I think is the path to many tears and must be stopped.)

We discussed how much I miss Katie during the day and how happy she is at school. Miss Fry floated the idea of my taking Katie out early on Fridays. I think this is a great plan, but it won't work this week or next. After that it's two weeks of holiday, so we may start it mid-April. Then again, maybe not. It seems weird to start something like this so late in the year. Back on the first hand, some of my fondest memories from childhood were when my mom would take off a Monday just to spend time with me. That rocked.

While I was chatting to her teacher, Katie went to afterschool club. I found her covered in Marmite and orange juice colouring in a picture of Barbie(tm). She'd had a great time and I'd managed to get her out early enough to not have to pay. Woohoo! Just as we were leaving school I got a call from Andrew saying he would be home late. (Actually, he asked if he could stay late, which is the most awesome thing a husband can do.) I didn't fancy a difficult evening juggling the girls, dinner, and hairwash night on my own, so I asked Katie if she wouldn't rather go to a restaurant. She said, "Yes, as long as it's Pizza Express!" A girl after my own heart.

We headed back past the school and into the Village. The skies got suddenly very dark and threatening, so I convinced Katie to run. A hundred yards from the restaurant and the heavens opened. We were soaked before we reached the door. Katie, bless her, my super big girl, went ahead inside and got us a table! The waitstaff could see us through the wall o' windows, so they were very obliging. I then got Buffy strapped into a high chair and went back outside to collapse the buggy and bring it inside. All in the driving wind and rain. Katie entertained Buffy. My wonderful girls continued to be absolutely perfect. Katie ate her food without complaint. Buffy munched on a spoon and sometimes threw it on the floor. Katie found this hilarious and picked it up every time. I would wipe off the spoon, give it to Buffy, and the cycle would repeat.

There were no tears, no tantrums. Whenever I needed Katie to listen to me, she did so without hestitation. It was a PERFECT dining experience. The girls were so adorable and funny. I had such a wonderful meal. It was idyllic. It makes me want to do it again every day, but I know not to be greedy. It's sheer dumb luck that we weren't the screaming terrors in the corner. We certainly have been *that* family on occasion. This time just went perfectly. I am so happy and bursting with maternal pride. Seriously, they were so good Buffy's nose wasn't even dripping!

Sometimes the heavens do align and we remember why we pined for motherhood for all those decades.

Parent/Teacher Conference

This afternoon I will go meet with Katie's wonderful teacher. I am sure she will completely reassure me, and then I won't have these thoughts swilling through my head. Without the swill, there is no blog, so I blog now.

They say parenting is full of tough choices, but that hasn't strictly been true for us. Natural childbirth? No question. Breastfeeding? At all costs. Plastic electronic toys? Not on your nelly. We have comfortably and confidently navigated our way through all sorts of potential parenting dilemmas. The two sticklers have been vaccinations and schooling for completely opposite reasons. With vaccinations we feel there is no right answer, with schooling there is no wrong answer.

Before Katie started school we did a lot of research into homeschooling. A wonderful homeschooling family lives across the street. Their five (!) children are all exemplary models of poise, intelligence, confidence, and familial bonding. Who wouldn't want that? I figured we could homeschool pretty effectively as long as we co-opped with other talented parents to play to our strengths. Andrew could teach kids to build and launch rockets, I could teach them naughty songs in French. By not sending our girls to private school (the only other choice we were considering) we would save enough money to study pyramids *IN* Egypt and hot air balloons back home in Albuquerque (which I still want to do). Ultimately, we decided Katie was, for better or worse, our daughter. Our kids would do better where we ourselves would have excelled. We are bookish, academic people who like raising our hands first with the answer. Private school it is, then. (Confusingly, private school is called "public school" in England. To keep it straight, I just say private school and state school to everyone. That way everyone is a little confused but no one slaps me upside the head for not talking right.)

We had to book Katie's place for September 2005 way back in January. She was still taking long daily naps, but surely the next eight months would take care of that. Well, it didn't. She would still take a nap if she could, and she's exhausted by the time I get her. I feel like I rush her around in the morning, don't see her all day, then try to clean up this crumpled and very grumpy lump of tired girl until she passes out in bed at 7:30. That's not a lot of time with one of the most precious people on the planet. The kicker is if we still lived in the States, we wouldn't have even considered school for her yet.

I'm torn. Maybe I should just pull her out and live out our homeschooling fantasy - must break to stop the baby from eating the trash. Okay, back. I gave her my checkbook to eat instead. - Katie absolutely loves school. The girl who kicked her in the face is no longer in school, and the girl who says she's going to cut the lips off all the pretty girls rather seems to like our Katie. The meeting with Miss Fry tonight is to allay my fears. She'll tell me Katie is popular and bright and I will be a very happy mommy with no more worries and nothing to blog about. I really just want to hear that she's happy and school isn't doing her any real harm. How bad can it be? She reads anything and everything you put in front of her and can eat with a knife and fork. Even better, she says "staihs" and "haih" like a proper little middle class English prep school girl. Money well spent.

God, sometimes I hate my country

Actress Michelle Williams was in the news today because she is being "disowned" by her former Christian school for her role in Brokeback Mountain. Her school feels that playing the role of a long-suffering wife to a repressed homosexual doesn't uphold the values they teach. Nevermind that she's unmarried and pregnant. Nevermind that she played a promiscuous party girl on Dawson's Creek. I am not a huge Michelle Williams fan, so I don't know if she played in a film where murder or adultery were featured, but I'm guessing she did at some point.

To this I say HUH?!

Since when and WHY is homosexuality Sin #1 in this country? ("this country" refers to the USA for this entry.) It's not even one of the Ten Commandments. It's mentioned way down in Leviticus right next to not wearing garments woven from two different kinds of cloth (Leviticus 19:19). Why is it considered worse than murder, adultery, and taking the Lord's name in vain - which people do a thousand times a day without thinking twice? God sure as hell knows I do.

It really chaps my hide whenever people try to use the Bible to justify hate. Um, someone isn't getting the point. Love, kindness, tolerance, turning other cheeks, etc - that's why Christianity is a religion. No millions of followers are going to get enlightened by a bunch of hateful dogma. All the world's major religions are founded on the old Bill and Ted principle of being excellent to one another. That's why people follow. We like the idealism, not the hate. Fundamentalism sucks, regardless of its religion de plume.

I am sick to my eye teeth of people bandying around "Christian" like it's some exclusive club. It reminds me of how people used to say, "That's mighty white of you." Stop spreading hate and dissent in my name. (The Christian bit, not the white bit. My skin is decidedly brown.)

Well, to sum up and reassure any fundamentalists out there, I am not going to go see Brokeback Mountain anytime soon. I don't get to movie theatres often, but that's not the real reason. I have it on good authority that not only is Heath Ledger's flannel shirt a cotton/poly blend but Jake Gyllenhaal's jeans are woven with Lycra to make them stretchy! There is NO way I am going to support that kind of cloth mixing hedonism.

Shameless Katie Brag

I know this is going to be obnoxious and gratuitous, so I apologise in advance. The thing is, last night I realised that Katie's reading is only significant for a short period of time. In a few years it won't matter at all. Reading early isn't going to make a whit of difference to her college applications, her boss in thirty years, or to the value of her house. The only time it matters at all is right now. Forgive a proud mama.

Yesterday on the course of two long train rides and a visit with family Katie read all of The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. It was an abbreviated version that came in a cereal box, but it was still very cool - few pictures, lots of words. At her Aunty's house, she read several pages to her Granddad. At the same time Buffy merrily crawled and scooched her way across the floor. I had to run into the kitchen before I filled so completely with Mommy pride I exploded.

Excerpt of what Katie read:

"I can't stand hunting. I just can't stand it. It doesn't seem right to me that men and boys should kill animals just for the fun they get out of it. So I used to try to stop Philip (pronounced P-hilip) and William from doing it. Every time I went over to their farm I would do my best to talk them out of it, but they only laughed at me." (This goes on for 56 pages.)

Okay, thank you for letting me brag so shamelessly. I'm done now. (Read: for now)

Regan