Thursday, October 13, 2016

Days of Our Lives

Whenever I complain about our days being super crazy busy, Jason smirks and chuckles.  He likes to smile and remind me how even though I looked forward to a fresh start, I've already managed to get our family just as overscheduled as before.

The problem is, when we first moved to Salt Lake, there we still five long weeks of summer left before school started.  Prone to going stir-crazy at home, I started to investigate different opportunities around town.  Before long, it became a giant puzzle: how could I get everyone to all the right places at all the right times to do all the cool things they wanted to do?

It's a good thing I like puzzles.

For me personally, the most challenging piece to figure out was a school.  After quite a bit of deliberation, we enrolled Brooklyn, Talia, and Eli at Emerson Elementary in their International Pathways (IP) Program.  IP is a combination of dual immersion and ELP (Extended Learning Program).   Initially, I wasn't thrilled about this differentiated education where students test into the classroom.  Would they feel lost in a class of students where everyone has a knack for academics?  Would they view their class as better and become haughty?  Would they like being with the same group of kids year after year?  Would their Spanish instruction suffer?  Unlike the other main dual language school in the district,  Emerson has fewer native Spanish speakers since many who qualify elect to stay at their home school.

I remember feeling extremely anxious about the decision right up until school started.  In the end, despite all my worrying, school seems to be working out quite well.  The kids still seem very motivated and are making strong progress.  While they occasionally talk about how the kids in their classes are smart, it's usually in context of how everyone is smart in very different ways.  I like how this year Brooklyn is coming to identify herself as good in math (particularly algebra) instead of just language arts.  Talia's written Spanish has really improved, and Eli has figured out that Spanish spelling lists are way easier than English ones.

So here's the crew on the first day of school.  Brooklyn (grade 6) has two teachers, Ms. Jensen and Sra. Rivera.  Talia (grade 4) is taught by a super sweet lady, Ms. Anderson, and Eli (grade 1) has a Peruvian teacher, Sra. Pizarro.

The "I" on Eli's backpack has since fallen off completely, leaving him as "el"--the one. 

If there's anything I dislike about school, it would be the early start time: 8:00 am.  This means we leave the house at 7:00 to catch the bus at 7:15.  On the positive side, the kids get out of school at 2:35, leaving plenty of time for extracurricular activities like...

Back in August, Talia started gymnastics at the Gymnastics Training Center.  She had fun at a back handspring clinic hosted by the Little Gym first, but ultimately decided their program was a little too little.  In this picture, Talia's pretty easy to identify as the gymnast in the black leotard.

But can you spot her in this one?  The place is so busy!  It's absolutely crazy.  Definitely a big change from Sokol gymnastics, but we're enjoying it.

Avenues Baseball: As for Eli, he's been playing T-ball twice a week with the Bearcats at some beautiful ball fields within walking distance of our house.  His coach is great, plus we've loved getting to know other kids from the neighborhood.

Playing in the lower field isn't too bad, but pushing the stroller up to the middle ball field sure gets my heart pumping.  Heaven help us all if we ever get assigned to the upper field.

Annika has recently started asking us to go outside and play baseball with her too.  I think she's excited to play herself some day.

Of course, the kids like playing in the park afterwards just as much.  Unfortunately, our coach's son Jack broke his arm on the monkey bars during the first week of baseball.  I'd tell you that he's the one in the blue shirt, but that really doesn't help much, does it.

On a more professional level, we got some free tickets to watch the Salt Lake Bees play.  So fun!

Papa Kay, we sure thought of you during the seventh inning stretch as we were missing our peanuts and cracker jacks.

Back to the extracurriculars, Brooklyn and Eli have started singing with the International Children's Chorus (more on that later), plus we found a cello major from the U of U who's willing to come and teach Brooklyn once a week.  So much for lazy summer days with nothing to do!

Art Class:
The kids aren't the only ones hoping to spend a little extra time developing their talents.  During August, Jason took painting lessons at the Pedersen Art Center, and created this lovely piece.
Now that Jason has mastered some of the basics, I'd really like to transform Monday nights into FHE art night at the Wheeler home.  What better family activity than to get creative together?

When not learning how to run a business, Jason periodically finds time to sketch in his new job as well.  He designed this great invitation to celebrate the former director's retirement.  The likeness was so close that a stranger actually stopped Roger while he was hiking up the canyon to say that she recognized him from the invitation someone in her office had received.

Bravo, Peanut Butter!  Jelly-approved.

Let's see, what other news: Braces.

Here's Talia before (smiling with delight after receiving a coveted copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child from her Uncle Lance):

And Talia after:
She's certainly gorgeous both ways.  Even though Talia is still waiting on some permanent teeth, the orthodontist was very anxious to put on braces right away in hopes of convincing her canines to descend instead of continuing their horizontal path.  If this little trick doesn't work, they will likely go in surgically to attach brackets and pull them down.  All in all, it is likely to be a lengthy process--three years in braces, at least.  The good news is that Talia will have plenty of chances to choose pretty rubberband colors.

Friends, old and new.
Okay, okay, not exactly old oldI'm sure Fred Washington would not appreciate that label.  However, we were delighted that our good friend from Omaha looked us up while passing through Salt Lake on his most recent trip.  He even treated us to some amazing pastries from Gourmandise.  Merci beaucoup!  C'etait delicieux.

 Some new friends from our 37th Ward in the Avenues also invited us over for a fun barbecue.  Here's a whole gaggle of children at the Wright family home.  This backyard is sure a luxury for the neighborhood!

Avenues Street Fair
Speaking of our neighborhood, one of the best things about our rental home in the Avenues is its central location.  It's a short drive from so many great places, be it the the zoo or Red Butte Gardens.  Head half a mile east and you are at the University of Utah, a mile west and you are downtown in the city center.  The tree-lined streets are an interesting mix of charming old homes and quirky small businesses, giving the place a strong community feel.

One gorgeous Saturday morning, we dressed the kids up and joined the children's parade at the Avenues Street Fair. 

We brought along our Jedi-in-training, Anakin Skywalker.

Harry Potter was so popular that even the lady running the booth wanted to take a picture.

Harry was accompanied by a stunning queen with naturally elfin hair.

 As for Tigger, she stayed perched on her father's back as we visited Annie's attic.
 This perfect morning certainly left us wanting to make a more permanent home in the Avenues.  Now if only we could find a place that matches both our needs and our budget...

And there you have it: the busy days of our lives.

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