Kindergarten graduation was last week, so he's a full-fledged crime-fighter now. We went straight from graduation to the toy store for the obligatory graduation present. It’s easy to make this boy happy, although it can be a challenge to find a Halloween costume in June.
Ed Note: Mrs. R, the principal at my kids' school, asked me to write a short piece for the final ICS newsletter. "Ahhh, a rant over the closing of the school?" I asked. "No, no, we must be positive to the end," she replied. "Just some thoughts on your family's experiences with the school." So here it is, not the angry, piercing, anti-Catholic diatribe that I would have preferred, but then, I do try to follow directions. Let me know if it's too over-the-top.
A 125-year run isn’t so bad, if you ask me. An unexpectedly abrupt ending, to be sure, but there is much to be thankful for and many memories to cherish.
My 2 older daughters came to Immaculate Conception School after attending Trinity Episcopal Academy for many years. And not being Catholic and thus having no experience with the Trenton Catholic school system, I enrolled my children with a certain amount of trepidation. Are they overly strict? Do they treat the non-Catholic kids just as they do those who are Catholic? Is the curriculum varied and up-to-date? Will the instruction be engaging and multi-faceted? Will they smack Sam across the knuckles with a ruler? These and lots of other questions roiled around in my head.
It took about 2 minutes for Mrs. R to put my mind at ease. Sam, my eldest daughter and the "boundary-tester" in the gang, piped up with a question for Mrs. R during the school tour she conducted for us when we applied for admission: "Can I use bad words in the essays that I write?" Well I wanted to quietly step into the coat closet and close the door, but Mrs R's response was patient, affable, and unfazed: "No honey, save that for Dear Diary. This is a grammar school."
Through tribulations major and minor, Mrs. R and the faculty and staff of ICS have shepherded, supported, protected, assuaged, and corrected all 3 of my children.
When one daughter was rendered desolate as a result of some painful bullying;
When another daughter was obsessed with applying make-up products in class every 2 to 3 minutes;
When a certain 5-year-old son got an F in Displays Good Christian Values for saying "God is old and stupid" to the class;
When 3 kids flailed about as they processed the divorce of their parents;
and on and on. With enormous grace, generous nourishment, and good humor the ICS family has become a part of the fabric of my family. I am so thankful that they will be an integral part of the lower school at the consolidated facility out in Hamilton. Change is hard and it's a comfort to know that Mrs. R and the faculty and staff of ICS staff will be on the other end.
Joey: "Mommy, there's something wrong with Ruckus's butt." [Ruckus is our new ginger-colored kitten.] Me: "What's wrong with Ruckus's butt?" Joey: "It's got a gross pink circle on it." Me: "Joey, every kittie's butt has pink circle on it." *whizzing and whirring sounds as information is rapidly processed in the fresh brain matter of a 6 year old with an enormous noggin* Joey: "Mom, don't say butt." Me: "OK Joey, every kittie's behind has pink circle on it." Joey: "Mom, don't say behind." Me: "OK Joey, every kittie's bottom has pink circle on it." Joey: "Mom, don't say bottom." Me: "OK Joey, every kittie's rump has pink circle on it." Joey: "Ew, Mom, don't say rump." Me: "OK Joey, every kittie's tookus has pink circle on it." Joey: "Mom! Don't say tookus!" Me: "OK Joey, *casts about for one more synonym for anus. Fails.* What should I say?" Joey: "Say hiney." Me: "Hiney! hiney! hiney!"
As a young guy, Joey figured that if he can see you, then you can hear him when he starts talking to you. As we'd drive by the neighbors in their car, Joey would call out, "Hey Rachel, hey Naomi!" "Joey they can't hear you." "Hey Rachel!! Hey Naomi!! Come over and see my new Chaos Disc Dueler, OK?" The cars pass each other on the street with friendly waves all around. "Joey, they're back there in their own car." And Joey would turn around to face the rear--"Rachel? Mom will get us something to eat when you come over!" A nice friendly fella.
Now in case you didn't know it, our next-door neighbor, Uncle Fifi, is a bit of an easy touch when it comes to Joey. And ever since Joey learned how to dial Uncle Fifi's phone number, special treats/rescue from the tyranny of older sisters/boys-only escapades are well within his reach. But since the flood, the phone has been broken. An entire month with no phone service, although I did receive the full monthly fee the other day, thankyouverymuch.
Joey has only the vaguest of understanding of this situation. Sat morning: "MO-om! Can I have some Fruit Loops?!" "Joey, we're out of milk." "But I waaaant sommmme!" "Well go ask Uncle Fifi for some milk--Sam is talking to him now on the computer." Yes, I said 'talking,' but what I should have said was Sam is IMing with Uncle Fifi.
Joey went over to the computer and said to the screen, "Fifi! We need your milk!! Fifi!? Can I have some milk for my cereal!" Sam, seeing the potential, further stoked things by opening up the camera link between our computers, but not the microphones. Joey, now able to see him: "Fifi?! Can I have some milk?" Fifi: Takes on an inquisitive look. Joey: "Bring me some milk for my Fruit Loops!" Fifi: Raises his left eyebrow. Joey: "FI! FI! MILK!" Fifi: Shrugs, hands in the air. Sam: Snickers mightily Fifi: Shoots Sam a look. Joey: "AWWW!" Fifi: Arrives at the door with milk. Sam: Runs for cover.
Dear Mrs R, I could hear it in your voice last night as we stood together cheering on the girls' softball team--the onset of mourning. This past winter had to be a stressful one--word came down that four schools had to close, and after much anxious waiting, the diocese tagged yours. Well, as you know I'm not Catholic, so I'll refrain from second-guessing the wisdom of closing all the private primary schools in the city of Trenton--I can understand that the Catholic Church's finances are limited, and something had to give. And I certainly don't need to tell you that it leaves few options to parents who fear the guns, drugs, and lack of academic discipline in the city's public school system. No, I'll leave that alone too...
But I do want to express to you my heartfelt sorrow over this unhappy situation--my condolences--as this school was yours, and you did wonders for it. From my first tour with oldest child Sam I was impressed with its tradition, the age-gone-by charm of the 125-year-old facility. So unlike the sterile suburban-school hallways and sound-proofed, carpeted rooms filled with metal desks and chairs, your school has quirks--where, in the entire central New Jersey region, would you find school floors that are made up of a colorful panoply of square vinyl tiles? Each patch in the floor is a different age and a different color-scheme, and likely tells a different story, but you see that the whole crazy-quilt floor shines like a precious gem.
But your real precious "gems?" Our kids. I know you've been teacher and principal to some families a lot longer than mine, but I want to tell you that you and your staff have touched all three of my children with generous servings of kind patience, keen insight, and sure direction: Sam, who is so strong outwardly until her adolescent world hits a rough patch and she feels she can no longer contain it; Katie, who needs containing; and Joey, who from day one of kindergarten forged a special relationship with you by refusing to enter his classroom for the first three days of school, instead staying with you, in your office, alerting you to the ringing phone and otherwise assisting you with important school business.
In closing, I've no doubt that it will be enormously hard for you and your staff over the next several months, as the school's long history comes to a close. But let me tell you that I am so thankful that you will be heading up the lower school at the consolidated facility out in Hamilton--change is hard and it's a comfort indeed to know that you and much if not all of your staff will be on the other end.
Coach walked Joey across the field, hand on shoulder, stood him in his position at left halfback, and faced him upfield--toward the action.
And there he stayed, feet planted sturdily, while the game swirled and rumbled around him. Cunningly, he didn't take a single step in any direction, even with a great herd of 5 and 6-year-olds--basically, everyone on both teams--bearing down on him in a thick dust cloud of kids. During one such end-run, I flinched as the herd rumbled straight at the fence post that was Joey, but it veered off at the last second. Disappointed somehow, he looked over at me and scowled, "That was a gyp."
At halftime, Coach reassigned Joey to a safer spot to hang out, goalie. Bored at first, he would periodically glare over at me and pound is chubby little hand into his chubby little fist and say, "I'm through with this." But then he discovered the fullbacks, Emily and Emily. Relocating to stand between these 2 tiny blond defenders, he finally stopped demanding to be taken home. Katie, apparently able to read lips, explained to me that Joey was making the Emilys laugh with his talk of farts.
And only 3 goals were scored during this defensive-squad bonding experience.
Joey left home this morning prepared. He had an escape plan and the tools with which to implement it. Naturally, I was in the dark. At 8:00, we pulled up at the back door of the school, where the kids are dropped off. Me: "OK, OK, scoot, hurry up, get out, have a good day, love you, Joey get that word of the day, and BEHAVE!"
Katie skipped across the playground while Joey struggled with the seat belt/bookbag/parka/door knob.
Joey: "Who's gonna pick me up?" Me: "Gramma." Joey: "Awww-aw! She *always* picks me up!" Me: "Yup, she does." Joey: "I'm gonna call Fifi--he can pick me up today." Me: "OK Joey. But you can't call him from school. I gotta go honey, hurry up and grab your bookbag!" Joey: "I brought a phone." Me: "OK, hurry up, ba--"
*Brain gears whir, hitch, seize*
Me: "KATIE! GET BACK HERE AND CHECK THIS BOY'S BOOKBAG!! Katie sauntered back, grabbed Joey's bookbag and rummaged around until . . . out came the living room phone, a decidedly non-mobile phone. Katie: "Joey! What's this phone doing in here?" Joey: "Hey! Gimme that! Awwww! I NEVER get a phone!!"
So funny. I can see him whipping that big honking phone out of his bookbag during reading circle, and Mrs D#tko trying to tell him "Joey, you can't use that here!" And Joey's response, clear, firm, and strong, "But I know the number!!"
Joey likes a good squeezing hug. He'll launch himself at you, giving fair warning after his feet have left the ground, that he's coming in for a "HUGANDAKISS!!" So freaking sweet I can barely stand it. The boy can dish it out, but he can't take it, however. As I gathered him into my Mom-clamp yesterday, he squeeked--"Mo-om! You're squishing me and my head is blowing up like a big ballon!"
Joey is still a little guy, but he learns something new every day.
1. It is possible to empty a good-sized tub of its water without pulling the plug. Simply introduce 2 brand-new boxes of tampons. Ancillary lesson: 80 fully-activated tampons make extremely heavy bags for mom to carry out to the trash cans.
2. It is possible to eat candy canes without unwrapping them. Simply chew them up as is. Ancillary lesson: clear plastic wrappers from 2 candy canes are extremely tricky for mom to pick out from amongst and between my teeth.
Upcoming lessons--Pooing without toilet paper, and shopping without money.