Pools of bright yellow sit in the gutters along the side of College Avenue this time of year. The Chinese Flame Tree is in bloom. They begin after the most intense heat has passed, after the saturated humidity of July and August. Also around this time, when the weather first dips down below 65 at night, the Saucer Magnolia gets very confused about the seasons and pushes out a few mystified blooms that I can just imagine looking at one another and saying, "Dear me! It isn't spring! Harold, you got it all wrong!" Don't ask me who Harold is.
We have begun a new pre-school with new teachers and a new routine. And after the awkward bustle of learning how to pack lunches and juggle pick-up times, nursing the first season's sicknesses and getting caught up with dental work, I've discovered I have a few delightful pieces of time to myself.
The children experienced a week of protestations where they told me they weren't going to school. They were nervous and had stomach aches, but now Rose has resigned herself to it and Lee positively enjoys it. They come home and tell me the most interesting things, like Rose's rendition of the season: "Mommy, there is gonna be rainbow leaves. And after the leaf fall comes winter, and snow is gonna cover the whole earth, and we'll wear jackets and boots."
Last Friday, Rose asked me if I knew Luke in her class. "No," I replied. "What's he like?"
"He likes me," Rose replied.
Today she told me that she doesn't like girls in her school. "Why?" I asked.
"Because girls are show-offs," she replied.
They bring me handprint pictures and molded clay sculptures, yarn weavings, crayon etchings, Cheerio outlines, handmade books, painted shells, an aquarium in a bottle, a miniature apple pie, and a paper cut-out of all the pirates in the Stevens' clan (which included Mr. Ryan Javier who is living with us right now).
I am delighted in the creativity and understanding of their teachers. This is what I want my children to be doing in pre-school. Not worksheets and academia but exploration and creation. What a difference holding Lee back has made! He walks onto the playground with excitement and most days forgets to say goodbye. When I pick him up, he's interested in showing me his projects and sometimes he gives me reports on what he ate for snack.
"Mama, Jacob brought a race car to school and you wind it up with a screw driver and it goes!" "Mama, we cut out lots of squares and put them on a paper and then they went through a machine and they were stuck all together." "Tomorrow my teacher said that if we're really good we can go to the park and play chase games." "My friends laughed at me when I ate my sprouts. They thought I was eating grass." That last bit of information would've concerned be except that Lee said it with satisfaction. He was quite pleased with himself at the attention and laughter he'd gained through his alfalfa sprouts.
In the car he and Rose compare notes or talk about when they see each other on campus. Once a month they get a Scholastic Book Catalogue that they look through like a newspaper and point out the books that they've read.
Last week their school held its first chapel day. "We went to a church, Mama," Rose told me. "It had beautiful windows and we sang at the front."
"Did you see Lee?" I asked.
"Yes, but we cannot turn our heads and we have to sit with our bottoms down."
I gather the school is more strict that our previous pre-school, and that is good. Lee thrives on structure and guidelines and order.
The school provides its own healthy snacks too, and they ask that parents not pack their children soda, fruit snacks, cookies, or fruit juices in their lunches.
Lee has begun sounding out words accurately and telling me what letter they start with. Rose does the same but with no accuracy at all. "B, B, B, car!" she'll say. Or "S, s, s, chair."
The other day, they were taking pats of mud and sticking them onto various objects in the backyard and saying, "You are a good bucket. Good job." "You are a fast swing. Good job." "You are a tall tree. Good job."
And just like that school has grown up my little boy. Within a few weeks he seems to be reasoning and expressing himself better. Today he asked me if fire hydrants ever run out of water. His little sense of humor is developing and he's less explosive when he doesn't get his way and more interested in cuddling when he's home. Their being at school makes me more interested in being with them too. The hours to myself in the silence of an empty house has made the times of their being here with each other and with me more sweet.