Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Marvelous Minds Preschool

Isabelle graduated from preschool! As she described it to Grandma Pendleton later, it was a very trying experience and she worked SO hard to finish this year and couldn't understand why people didn't give her candy and presents like they did for Samantha (who graduated from high school). This kid is a riot, I tell you!

Isabelle started the year in Arkansas at a Spanish immersion preschool. Although she picked up a fair amount of Spanish, she had a hard time learning much else since the language was a barrier. When we moved and she started at a traditional English preschool, she was on cloud nine. We lucked out and landed a spot at the same preschool our good friends send their son to, and I have been grateful every day for the recommendation.

Isabelle's teacher, Miss Jana, was incredible. To describe her in a nutshell, she's Pinterest with a purpose. Every single project, activity, field trip, and assignment was over the top adorable and fun, but always with a learning objective in mind and generally very effective. I can't even imagine the work that went into graduation. Let me just give you a sample:

1. There were huge blown up pictures of each kid on the wall with a sample of their artwork, an all about me poster, and a quote about what they want to be when they grow up.

2. Each child received an individual award (Isabelle got the "Awesome Artist Award") which was hung on a cellophane candy-filled necklace. After they received their award, they got to do a victory jump off the table.

3. They also received a binder portfolio full of neatly organized and page protector-ed work that they had done all year. At the back was an assessment to show growth and alphabet and sight word charts to practice over the summer.
4. She helped the kids put together "All about me" books, "Bruno the Bear" books (remember him?), a photo album with pictures of them from the year, and an Alphabet book.

5. She put together a video presentation with preschool pictures to show at graduation, then included that video as well as all the pictures on a CD for all the students (with a cute label in a cute bag sealed with cute washi tape, and the CD had multiple folders -- one for the whole group and one with just pictures of Isabelle).
6. The graduation ceremony was awesome. Tons of songs and poems they had learned all year (again, all with a purpose, whether it was months of the year, days of the week, coin values, but always adorable).

I could go on, but you get the idea. Miss Jana was amazing. Of course, I am a sucker for Pinterest perfect presentation so I ate it all up, but the real proof of her teaching came on our rides home from preschool every day, when Izzy would tell me what they had learned that day.

"Did you know an Octopus has eight legs, three hearts, and no bones?"
"Do you want to see me sign the alphabet?"
"I know how much a dime is worth!"
"Guess what? A zebra baby has brown and black stripes, not white and black!"

And so on and on and on and on.

The graduation itself is something really appreciated better through video, and I will include some clips at the end, but here are some photos of my silly kid. Most of the kids got stage fright and were pretty stoic up there, but not Izzy. Animated is her middle name.


Here's the video. Do yourself a favor and watch the "guitar" part (1:09).

Hooray for summer!

Spring Choir Concert

Savannah loves to sing. Really, really loves to sing. She has been begging since she could talk to be on a stage, singing. It's been challenging to find musical performance opportunities for very young children, so her singing experience thus far has been limited to mostly church opportunities and talent shows. Luckily, we belong to a church that recognizes "the song of the righteous is a prayer unto [God]," and music has always been a big part of our home and our religion.

Moving to Utah opened up a wealth of opportunities we have never known in the musical arena. Within our first week, Savannah had joined the Utah Valley Children's Choir, the same choir Jeff sang in as a kid, and his sister sang in all the way through high school. She loved being able to sing with a group, learn challenging songs, and have fun while doing it! She was part of the Hi-Lo Choir, but all four choirs that make up UVCC came together for a spring concert in the beautiful Alpine Tabernacle. Savannah is third to the right of the podium in the front row.

Their concert was beautiful and inspiring. It felt a bit like a primary program on steroids. The oldest and most elite choir, the concert choir, was really impressive, but Savannah's little group held their own! Poor Nana had fallen on the blacktop at school that afternoon and was sporting a nice steristrip across her forehead, but still sang her heart out.

These three (including Sawyer in the back) were totally rotten audience members. Sometimes I am conflicted between bring the siblings to support one another, or leaving them home so I can enjoy these events in peace. I just hope one day they learn to appreciate each other's talents.

I took some very poor video clips of some of their songs. The first is a combined choir number, but Savannah's group doesn't join in until 1:33. She's standing near a mic and I'm pretty sure I can make our her voice. (Which isn't really a good thing in a choir performance!)

This was their grand finale.

This song is just the concert choir, but I had to include it because it was the star of the show. Since then, Savannah has committed to learning this song by heart and sings it around the clock. There are lots of little voices in the background, but you get the idea.

Savannah did a great job at her concert and I am really proud of her for persevering through this semester of choir. As much as she loves to sing, there were a few weeks where she really didn't want to go to rehearsal. My best mom analysis is that (a) she was overtired from school and didn't want to go straight to another activity, (b) she was learning that choirs are hard work and not all just fun and games, or (c) (this one she has admitted to me many times) she didn't like that they sang all spiritual songs and wished they would sing more "fun" music. I question that last claim, since she sang her choir songs ALL the time, but that's what she said. She loved their concert and had a great time in the end. We are exploring several choir options for next year, but returning to this one is definitely still in the running!

The mountains were stunning as we left the concert. There was a ridge of clouds sitting right on top of the mountains like a fluffy cap. What a beautiful encore to a beautiful evening.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Princess Games with Lil' Bro

Sawyer often gets roped into whatever games his older sisters want to play. Today it was the Princess Cupcake game. He does love cupcakes, so it didn't take much convincing. I would blame it on being the youngest, but Logan has been playing dress up and house for many many years, so I think it's just a woman's world. At least in our house.

Happy 30th, Byron!

My baby brother is 30. Stop the bus.

Byron has been the greatest uncle and brother to our family. He's always been the first to get on the floor and wrestle with the kids. After spending an afternoon showing Logan how to make his own app, he definitely won a spot in that kid's heart. And when I suggested driving to Arizona and back in 48 hours, he jumped right on board and we had some awesome conversations during our 20 hour drive. He's a great dad and husband, too, and definitely undeserving of the ridicule I bestowed upon him in our early years.

It was a treat to host his family for dinner the Sunday before his birthday. We sure love being close(r) to them and look forward to many more dinners together!

First Hike - Escalante Cross

We haven't hiked nearly as much this year as we would have liked. Jeff's travel schedule, a rainy spring, and lots of work to do on the house and yard have kept us from getting out much. One weekend we had to be out of our house for 24 hours to let our floors dry (they needed a new coat of sealer), so we decided to cram a quick hike in on a Friday night. Escalante Cross in Spanish Fork is just a short hike from Jeff's parents house, so even though we only had an hour or so before sunset, we set out.

The kids did great and even Sawyer walked most of it. We reached the crest right as the sun set. We still had to walk along the ridge to get to the cross, but since it was getting dark quickly and we had all the views we could want from that point, we decided to turn around there. By the time we got back to the reservoir at the trailhead, it was pretty much dark, but the kids still played on the playground for a minute before calling it a day. I know this will be a light year for hiking in our house, but it is still my favorite family pastime so I'm crossing my fingers for a few more!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

4th Grade Utah Program

It was anyone's guess where we would end up for Logan's 4th grade year, but Utah state history won out! He had to dress up as a pioneer, so it seemed appropriate to take a picture next to the pioneer trail markers left in our yard. My favorite line from their state history program was: "This was just the place the Mormons were looking for, a place no one else wanted." Ha! But true.

And the grand finale-- the Utah state theme!

Grandma's Grandkids

As part of Jeff's mom's Mother's Day gift, we took new pictures of the kids for her grandkid wall. Sometimes overgrown and un-landscaped lots have their advantages (such as good photo backdrops).

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is not necessarily all about Mom. Given the chance, most mothers would probably choose a quiet day (preferably in isolation), a clean house, and a simple meal where they aren't required to do any dishes, but what we end up with is children climbing all over you shoving crayon drawings in your face, the smoke detector going off three times while the bacon cooks, flour exploding everywhere, and a delicious, multi-course meal that leaves your husband exhausted and stressed out. Multiple potted plants are delivered from schools, leaving trails of soil throughout the car and house, and you will probably find handmade coupons stashed between every couch cushion for weeks to come. But you know what? I wouldn't have it ANY other way.

This Mother's Day was perfection. My kids really seemed to catch the spirit of the holiday, and for the entire week preceding I overheard many not-so-whispered conversations and was quizzed on all my favorites. After the fact, I found this list made by Savannah to help her remember everything she was going to do.

The whole day I was pampered and spoiled by my children and husband. Waffles with strawberries, whipped cream, and bacon for breakfast, and a gorgeous steak dinner filled my stomach that day. The kids even appeased me with a picture of me and them, something I don't get very often. Their cards and sentiments were so uniquely them that I couldn't help but love and treasure them. Jeff made good on a Mother's Day IOU from years ago and forced me to pick out a patio set. I was being my usual indecisive self and bought and returned two sets before I found this one. I love it so much and can't wait for summer to hit so we can spend every night on it!

If that wasn't enough, he also surprised me with a Fitbit! I've been watch-less for awhile now so I was thrilled to finally have a watch again, but I was surprised how much I love having a "smart" watch! I've never cared much about my daily step count before, but now I actually have motivation to walk places rather than drive whenever possible. My all time favorite feature is a toss up between the call/text notifications (never miss a call again!) and the silent (vibrating) alarm. Being able to get up in the wee hours of the morning without waking up my family is heavenly.

My calling as a mother is one that I always wanted but have realized does not always come naturally. I've been blessed with the absolute best trainers and role models in my mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, sisters, and other women in my life. My husband is my advocate in everything, but most especially in this. And most of all, I'm so grateful for these patient souls that call me "Mom."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Logan the Webelo

Somehow, despite changing scouting troops mid-year and missing some key den meetings, Logan (and I) managed to compete his bear with an entire week to spare! He became a Webelo at the May pack meeting. I got to test his bear skills by tossing swedish fish into his mouth (eh... we had better keep working on that) and then I got pinned by my favorite 10-year-old.

I have a love/hate/kind-of-want-to-pull-my-hair-out relationship with cub scouts. I don't love pack meetings. I don't love the crazy strict rules and regulations. I definitely don't love sewing the patches onto Logan's overpriced shirt. But I do love that Logan loves it. He has had fabulous scouting leaders all along the way and has made some good friends through scouting. For a kid that prefers to be sitting at a computer, by himself, to almost anything, cub scouts is a great change of pace and scenery. Just look at that smile on his face as he leads the crowd in a cheer. Just one more year before boy scouts!