What's a year and half? Nothing. A blink of an eye, really. But I'm back at it and it feels good. See, there's this girl. And she's having a birthday and the one thing she wanted more than anything else was a reminder of how awesome her family is. So this is for her.
(And this is how awesome her family is:)
A quick update. During the last 18 months we all aged a bit, the girls cleaned up at a handful of swimming meets, we moved to Billings, MT and I took a new job and the girls changed schools three times. We also discovered that the older your family gets the harder it is to move.
But it's also adventurous. And rewarding -- in its own way. A few weeks after landing in Billings, I was dropping the girls off at school and as they got out of the car and walked up to the main door, they held hands. Definitely a first for them. It made me think maybe the change would maybe do some good.
It's been interesting watching them adjust to the move. 'Cause mostly it's been them adjusting to new schools and new friends. We got here in November, got the girls in school and then moved them to a new one in August for the new school year. They had to start from scratch. Twice. Well, almost from scratch. They each had a friend at their new school and that helped a bit.
But moving to a new school is hard. For the first day, Becky and I walked the girls and dropped them off with all kinds of hugs and kisses. The playground was filled with kids waiting to line up to go into the school and as we turned back, sneaking one last glance Claire, who could strike up a conversation with a tree, was immediately talking and laughing with some soon-to-be classmates. Leigh, on the other hand, was kind of wandering around all by herself. That's hard to watch as a parent. And then talking to her about after school, she wasn't even aware she was making such a depressing sight. That girl's pretty much content anywhere and under almost any circumstance.
Of course our biggest worry is that the girls will be picked on. The new kids are always picked on. Case in point: I went to the same elementary school from kindergarten to sixth grade. Pretty much same group of friends from start to finish. In fifth grade, we had a new kid move into our class -- his dad was in the Air Force and like most military brats, I don't think this poor kid ever finished a single grade of elementary at the same school. Which makes me feel even more guilty for the way I treated him.
But you gotta understand. Sure, his dad was in the Air Force, but my older brother was in the Civil Air Patrol, kind of a junior ROTC for high-schoolers who wanted to go into the Air Force. My brother even had a uniform. Obviously, I was the resident expert on allthings Air Force. We didn't need this new kid around with all his stories about the service and how cool his dad was 'cause he worked on fighter jets. And so, I picked on him. Mercilessly. It culminated with a fist fight after school one day. Because I was jerk. I'm pretty sure he kicked my trash. For some reason that doesn't make me feel any better.
So I knew what could happen to my girls. They could easily have a classmate who's older sibling wrote for the high school paper. And that classmate could easily consider themselves the school expert on newspapering. And then my girls would come in with a dad who was reporter for the town paper and that poor threatened classmate would tease my kids all day long about how their tales of what their dad did at work were completely wrong and could never happen and that they were nothing but liars, dirty dirty liars, 'cause everyone knows C-130s can't go supersonic! Naturally I hoped they'd have less petty classmates.
And guess what? They do. Both the girls have made some really good friends. Claire admitted she used to get teased a bit about her age. She's really young for her class -- the cut off dates in California fall in such a way that she would have ended up in a lower grade had she started school here instead of in Redding. And so at lunch, some of her classmates used to tell her she wasn't as cool as everyone else in her class 'cause she was born in 2000 not in 1999. Claire, of course, is a survivor. She knew if she was going to stop the teasing she'd have to not only intimidate her classmates but also show them she could stand toe-to-toe with the best of them.
So, one day at lunch, as the teasing started up again, she quietly finished her milk, picked up the small, half-pint milk carton, made eye contact with her tormentors and crushed the carton in her fist. That was the end of that. As she describes it, the show of strength left everyone in the cafeteria slack-jawed and bug-eyed. She showed them.
Leigh, I'll admit, I was never that worried for. Becky was a bit, naturally, because Leigh is so unassuming. She's meek and gentle in her own way. A natural target for bullies, right? Except that Leigh's hilarious and has a spine a tempered steel. Nothing really shakes that girl up. So, instead of being the shy kid in class, she's more like the oil on the water. She just calms everything down. And she quickly wins the hearts of those who know her.
She was star of the class last week -- a little thing the teacher does to highlight each student in class. On Friday, as the culmination to the week, the Star gets to do this kind of extended show-and-tell, showing off to the class all her likes and interests. Well Leigh gets up and shows off pictures of her family and some of her art projects, finishing by showing the kids how to do one of designs she created in art class. It was amazing to watch. Leigh simply commanded the classroom. She had the kids laughing, asking questions and intently watching as she did her demonstration. She was completely at ease and we realized she was going to be just fine.
So, it's back to the lab again.
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