New School, Old Friends


It's that time of year again: chalkdust (OK, in our case dry-erase marker dust, but that doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?), backpacks, desks, and notebooks. Many of our back-t0-school rituals are different here. No trips to Wal-Mart. No new clothes. No "Meet the Teacher Night" (or as John calls it, Meet the Creature --- quoting from when HE was the creature!).

Our back-to-school time this year was characterized by the hard labor of trying to move into a new building covered in dust (some floors we mopped 4 times and they STILL looked dusty!); reunions with friends not seen, in some cases, in 15 months; and a last minute frantic search for "inside shoes" we don't wear street shoes indoors, so all the kids are expected to bring their own pair of slippers/flipflops to keep at school. I must admit that I was so intent on getting the library ready for the first day of school that I neglected this oh-so-important back-to-school item and John had to do it (which I'm sure brought much amusement to our shop ladies!).

Though many of our rituals are different, many are the same. Getting everything ready the night before: backpack, lunch box, clothes, and water bottles. Waking up way earlier than necessary because the butterflies beat out the alarm. Our traditional send off prayer: Help them to be good listeners, good learners and good friends....These things don't change dependent on our location.

There is one new aspect to our schooling this year that we've never experienced before: walking to school. When we lived here before, Sophie first had a 35 minute taxi ride to school and then, once we got our car, a twenty minute car ride at the school's second location. Then last year in Canada, the girls waited for the school bus each morning and rode about 15 minutes to school. This year we are only a five minute walk to the crow flies it would be much shorter but because of some dead-end streets we need to make a "U" to get to the school. Still, a five minute walk is hard to beat! We thought we'd show some pictures from our walk:

Click to enlarge

This is my favorite part of the walk and so it get's its own picture. It is a reminder to me of His provision for us in big and little ways. The school, its teachers, and its new building are evidence of His provision in a big way. As we walk to school, for some strange reason, one of the roads we have to cross has giant pipes (for gas and water) running through them...the are about 3 feet high and getting over them with all our gear is a task...that is it was until we discovered these little stairs right in front of the street we need to turn onto. This makes our trip even easier!

Every morning the school has a teacher posted at the door to greet the children. This first day, our greeter was Sophie's teacher, Miss Melissa, who is back for her third year with us. Sophie is in for a great year with this gifted and kind teacher.

Side view of school

Annie's teacher has been with us for four years, and also taught Sophie 1st grade. Miss Barbara is another wonderful teacher and a good friend. Next to Annie, is her sweet friend, Isabel. They call themselves "BBs", short for "best buds".

Sophie is giving me the smile that says: "I'm in fourth grade, don't you think this photo-shoot thing is getting a bit stale?" She puts up with me!

First day assembly in the library, led by our great principal.

The view from my 3rd floor library balcony.

The after lunch line-up for Sophie.

Annie's class doing a crazy face picture.

We made the short walk home and talked about our day and decided it was great! After relaxing with a short show and popcorn time after supper, the girls were off early to bed to do it all again the next day....

...while Benjamin fed his zoo of stuffed animals their daily popcorn rations!



Yes, I am already in the midst of Christmas decorations and plans....I admit
this is a weakness, no will power when it comes to waiting. My best excuse is
that with the decorations up, it gives me all that much more time to enjoy
watching my kids enjoy it. They never get tired of the lit tree, the mysterious
packages underneath, and the nativity that gives purpose to it all.
Which brings me to the best gift any of my kids has ever received. My sister-in-law, Heather, has a gift for giving just the right thing (see last Christmas' post when the kids spent hours threading shoelaces through dinosaurs, still trying to figure out the allure of that one). When Sophie was getting ready for her first Christmas--eight years ago, unbelievable--Heather and Chris (though I don't know that he necessarily knew they were giving this...feel free to comment and defend yourself, Chris) sent us the Fisher Price Little People Nativity set.
I must admit, at first I was less than taken with this gift. It's musical, in that battery-operated kind of way that most of us parents learn to dread. Aside: Am I the only parent out there guilty of saying to her kids "Sorry the batteries must be dead," when I secretly removed them or replaced them with dead batteries just so I wouldn't have to hear that song/noise/voice ONE MORE TIME?
To add injury to insult, the song this little treasure plays is "Away in a Manger". Not my favorite Christmas Carol, which is a running joke between John and I. Its the simple line, "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he made". I mean, come on! I am TOTALLY on board with the fact that Jesus, God-man, was sinless. This is a foundational part of my theology and my theology is a foundational part of who I am and what I do. HOWEVER, crying--especially the way newborns do it--is a form of communication, not sin. Of course He cried when He was hungry or needed changed. And so, my dislike of the song. Unfortunately, my kids love it and when the girls start to sing it they catch my eye and say, "I know, I know, He really did cry. Mo---oom, its just a song." Obviously, I have not yet passed on the theology as a foundation for living stuff yet. New Years Resolution.

Anyway, back to the gift. This little nativity set has really grown on me over the years. Even as I hear its tinny version of Away in a Manger, a smile comes to my face. The memories of Christmas past flood back, Sophie's obsession with getting everybody in just the right place, Annie's obsession with Mary, and now Benjamin. At three, this is his first year to really begin to understand why we as a family celebrate and anticipate Christmas.

I must admit, when I gave it to him last week, I had high hopes that this would
be the beginning of a new understanding of Jesus for him. These hopes came
crashing down when he started calling the wisemen "ladies"--and afterall, they
do look pretty feminine with their long robes and glitzy crowns. He also began
adding his other Little People to the mix...Construction workers, Animals from
Noah's Ark, poodles, and even a beanie baby frog began joining the mix. My inner theologian began to cringe. Was this treating something sacred so lightly?

Then I began to look at it as children do, and my theology came back into sync.
Who better to worship at the feet of Jesus than construction workers and
poodles? Jesus didn't come just for those 2,000 years ago, nor did He come only
for those "wise" enough. He came for the every man, He came for Ben.