Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taking the kids to school

The best way we have found to get them out of bed in the morning is to turn on the tv to one of the kids programs. I turn it on at 6:45 after getting up myself. I first turn on the heat, the computer and start making our daily pot of American style coffee. We buy beans and grind them fresh every morning, a habit we formed in California. It's just the we can't really find the quality of coffee we like here. We have settled on Lavaza gold, it's 100% arrabica. I prefer Colombian. Julia who is 8 comes stomping up the stairs like a lumberjack as soon as she hears the tv and Giovanni 6 usually takes a bit of mommy time to get out of bed. At 7:20 the tv goes off and by then they are supposed to also be dressed. We really have a routine, every morning I wonder how long I can keep it up, it just seems so boring to do the same thing everyday and also to be obligated to do it. I've become spoiled over the years working independently and not having a fixed schedule. Now that the kids are both in regular school things have changed.

Luisa has the pleasure of a few minutes extra sleep and often gets hot coffee delivered to her in bed. While the coffee brews I begin to check the email and read some news on the Internet, usually starting with Don't know what I'll do if the war in Iraq ever ends. Once she is up Luisa pays the price for having had a bit of extra bed time. She gets the kids dressed and fed and puts up with all the typical morning stress. In the meantime I get myself dressed, always wondering if I should actually put on real clothes or not since I'll be working at home all day. At 7:45 I get myself downstairs, our apartment is on two levels, and start telling the kids that we are late and why aren't they ready. So I wait while Julia gets her hair brushed, puts in her lip bumper, finally gets her shoes on and then the coat, Giovanni is usually ready as Luisa is still getting him dressed.

Finally we head out the door, now if by some slim chance we are out in time we can walk, however it's usually too late so we have to take the car. We descend down three flights of stairs into an underground garage. It's big and dark and always cold. A little creepy. The automatic light doesn't come on until we reach the far end. The one at the entrance has not been working for a while. Getting out of the garage is always a challenge, Italian parking lots, and garages are just barely big enough to function. I've tried the two directions to turn when backing out and have finally gotten it down to 4 turns if I go to the left on the first one. We drive up the ramp and then to the electric gate which opens shall I say slowly. Driving down the private street to the main road I always think someone should put up some no parking signs as they have turned a two way street into one way by parking on one side. So if we happen to meet an oncoming car someone has to back up so the other can pass. At least people seem pretty friendly about it and whomever has the easiest back up possibility usually backs up. When we reach the main road which actually leads directly the school there is usually a line of cars waiting for the stop light that is two blocks away, but once again people are pretty nice and we enter the line after someone lets us in.

Arriving at the school once again we are dealing with the typical Italian parking situation. Some parents just let their kids out the door and then move on turning around a sort of circular drive. While others me included like to park and escort the kids inside. So of course it takes a bit of maneuvering to find a place and then park. The school building is a semicircular structure, with I think 6 floors. The upper levels are mostly empty and contain small dorm rooms as the school was originally a live in school for boys only. It seems they use the rooms in the summer for groups and also there are a few residents. I met one and gave him ride one morning. His sad story is that he attends a high school about 15 minutes away and lives in the dorm. He had missed the bus that morning. Only problem is that I see him begging rides almost every morning so it seems he doesn't make much effort to catch the bus. An interesting bit about the school, it's a private catholic school, is that it is named after a first cousin, 4 or 5 times removed of Luisa's. Seems the ol girl who had no children of her own donated all of her money to the church in her dying days. This was much to the disappointment of her close relatives who might have wished to have the money and property.

But now we are entering the school, there is an outer door, with a paper note asking people to keep the door closed, because the facility is heated, attached to the glass panel in one of the doors. Inside the entry a nice lady is usually there greeting the kids and keeping an eye on things. In this little lobby there is a bank of telephone booths now abandoned which I suppose were used in the past by the resident students to call home and their friends. We say good morning to the nice lady and pass through the second door into a large semicircular hallway, with a very high ceiling. At one end of the hall is the school chapel. At the other are the stairs and hallway going to the various classrooms. Giovanni is on the first level above, Julia the next above that. In the hallways outside the classrooms each room has a row of benches and above the benches are hooks with the names of each student. They put their little bags of extra clothes on the hooks and also their coats and hats. Under the benches are their cubby holes where they keep their slippers. Each child at the beginning of school brings in a pair of slippers which they put on before entering the class room. We usually arrive at the last minute as the classes are heading upstairs, so my kids go charging off hardly saying good bye unless I grab them for a last minute kiss. On the rare occasion that we are there early, they meet their friends and chat or show off some little thing or toy they are smuggling into class. The parents too have a moment to chat and complain about the weather or tell stories about which kids are disrupting the class or what the latest thing is that they don't like about the school.

Some days we actually walk to school. Of course this happens more in the warm months. The walk follows the same path as the car. The kids usually complain if they have to walk but once they start they seem to have fun, running to the next intersection to wait for me or skipping and jumping along the side walk. I always remind them to watch out for the dog poop along the edge of the sidewalk, and tell myself I really need to post some signs telling people how bad it is to take their dogs there to dirty the place where we all walk. We get to the main intersection and push the button for the pedestrian signal on the stop lights. We wait, then when the pedestrian sign goes on I grab Giovanni to make sure he doesn't charge out into the street as there will often be a late right turning car. We walk along past shops and apartment buildings. We pass a ceramics studio which seems to be dedicated to classes for the handicapped. Usually outside a 30 something man waits to be let in. Sometimes I say good morning to him but he never replies, just stares at us as we pass. We arrive at the school and thread ourselves through the maze of the parking and drive through area. We enter, say good morning to the nice lady and the kids go running up the stairs, late as usual.


  1. Hi Uncle John!!! I just stumbled across your website when i was browsing youtube! So, how is everyone? I like your website.

    Tell Julia, Giovanni, and Aunt Luisa I said hi

    Love, Mey Helm

  2. Thanks, Mey, I'm glad you like the website, I haven't done much with it lately, been sick and too busy. You can always email us, ask your dad for the address. I can try to get Julia to write back.

  3. oh, thats to bad... im sick to! with the cough.. :(

  4. Hi uncle John!!! Its Darrachan. Hi!!! :)