August 27, 2009

Back to school

The last couple of days we've been busy getting our school supplies ready. We actually bought everything at the end of July already, before we left on vacation. I just wanted to be prepared and ready.

Now, we're in the process of labeling everything (EVERYTHING!) and putting it in the right backpack. Though this is the third year we're going through this process, I want to make sure everything is there and in mint condition. And I certainly don't want to make the same mistakes I made the first year we got here. I still feel miserable when I think of it. I completely messed up. The lists with school supplies are posted online every year, at the very beginning of summer vacation. M. was starting second grade that year, so I looked up her supply list, making sure I had the right list (the school is kind of big with several classes for the same grade). Helena, still being a preschooler didn't need anything. I thought...
I was wrong, so totally wrong. And I was about to find out the hard way!

Preschool started one day early, in the afternoon - two hours, just to meet the teachers and the new friends and break in the new class. That meant that M. and me would have two hours to do something fun, just the two of us, like going for some crêpes and chocolate milk, something we didn't do so far because of little sister's allergies.
A little excited, nervous, anxious ... (complete the list with all the emotions you can think of that come with the start of a new school year, in a new country, in a new language) we headed to school. The sidewalk in front of little H.'s school was crowded with kids and their moms and/or dads, carrying heavy department store bags. I remember I was thinking to myself "Hmm, there's been some heavy shopping this afternoon before taking the kids to school." Until I noticed the kids were actually taking these bags inside when the principal started calling out the names for every class. What was going on here? I started to panic and walked over to one of the teachers to ask what was in the bags - a totally ridiculous question. I already guessed myself. School supplies of course! What else could there be in those bags? I freaked out! School supplies? But she's only in preschool, she'll be starting "Moyenne Section"! I simply didn't check for the possibility of there being a school supply list for MS, assuming all a preschooler needs is paint, crayons, markers... And isn't that something the school takes care of? Well, it was in my school days and so it was in California.

Not here, not at this school! Luckily the teacher I had talked to and who saw my despair, went back inside to get me "the list": three pages - very detailed - with plenty of words I didn't understand! Cahiers SEYES - "cahiers say-what?". I'd never heard of SEYES. I always considered myself an expert when it came to school supplies. Ever since I was a little girl I had been browsing through school supply aisles in supermarkets, looking for the one thing I didn't have yet. Was it possible I had missed out on something?
Of course, if I would have collected M.'s school supplies myself, instead of dropping off the list at the bookstore as was recommended by the school's PTA to the newcomers I'm sure I would have known what a "cahier SEYES" was. But I didn't do it myself.

Needless to tell we didn't go eat crêpes that afternoon. Instead, the two of us ran around town like crazy to get little H.'s stuff. By the time we went back to pick up our little girl, we had everything except for the "tablier", a fabric apron, all French preschoolers wear in class every day.

With this in mind, ever since, we go out on our school supply hunt as soon as the list is made available online. It has become routine now. Cahier de travaux pratiques, petit format, grand format, cahiers SEYES à 32 pages, 96 pages, 144 pages, triangular pencils, regular pencils, chemises cartonnées à rabats, lutin à 60 vues, 90 vues, 120 vues, chaussons de mimes ... the school supply list has no more secrets to us! We're professionals now!

Did you ever mess up your kid's first day at school?? Just wondering...

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