Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Sweet New Year

We had a really nice Rosh Hashana in our new home. Everyone came down for dinner - it was the first time we seated everyone around our table in our home - moving boxes and all. The services were at KAMII... short and sweet. Then we went to the lake shore for Tashlich, which really just turned into, "Let's feed the birds."

Pix here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Day at the Lab School

The boys are off to a good start at the Lab School. The first day was hectic, but we got through it. Julie did a heroic job getting everyone's supplies together. Max was a little overwhelmed by the whole go-to-your-locker-and-get-your-books-for-your-next-class thing, but he will get used to it. Zach likes his class as well - he has a veteran teacher who is actually retiring after this year. We're wondering if it is a coincidence that Zach was placed in a class where the teacher is a specialist in spatial reasoning...

Max is playing Horn in the band - he had one lesson (from me) and has excelled mainly by just practicing on his own. He also had swim try-outs with the Midway Aquatics Club, and he made the highest swimming group that practices two hours every night!

It is going to be a busy year for both of them, but they are off to a great start.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pretty in Pink

Sophie is such a girly girl. I took out the camera last night to grab some pictures, and she was all over it. After a few shots, she had to run and get her lipstick and fix her hair. Then she struck one post after the next. After each shot, she would say, "Can I see?" and run around to see the camera. She is going to be an expensive one.

More pix here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Getting Oriented

(written by Julie)

We had a busy day at the Lab School. After Sam walked Ari to the Ray School, where he had his second tearful drop-off, I prepared the other three kids for the new student orientation for nursery-4th grade. (Ari is always happy at pick-up and gave his friend, John a high five today.)

We walked to the Lab School, where we escorted Max and Sophie to the courtyard playground. Zach came with me to the orientation. We were introduced to administrators, parent volunteers and learned mostly about logistics, and Zach sat very patiently. Then we had a tour with the 4th graders. We found Zach's classroom, all the way up on the third floor!! We were lucky to find his teacher, Ms. Carrasco, there eating her lunch. She was nice enough to say hello and invite Zach and Hao (another new Lab student previously at the Ray School) in for a quick look. This is Ms. Carrasco's last year here. She and her husband are building a home on their property - in Chile!

We were there for almost two hours, and I carried Sophie up and down the stairs...

We walked home for lunch and then headed back over for Max's orientation. This was much more intimate, in size and attitude. These are parents of 5th-8th graders, after all. We met the administrators, counselors and learning consultants first. Then a group of established middle schoolers took small groups of new students and walked them around the school. For all of this, Sophie and Zach sat quietly! Max came back to us, and I asked the head of the middle school and an admissions associate how to pick up three boys within 15 minutes of each other in three schools. They were very helpful, and we decided that picking up Ari first and letting M and Z wait at the Lab is the safest option. Phew!

Next we walked a city block north to pick up Ari in the crowd of parents and siblings outside the Ray School. I really wanted Max to have a chance to find his locker today, so we walked back down to the Lab School. Max's intuition guided him straight to his locker, and it happens to be the first locker outside his advisory classroom. For an extra bonus, Max's (advisory and math) teacher was there! Ms. Hilarides met all of the Volchenkids and recognized my "handful". Max not only learned to open the combination on his locker, but he also discovered a relationship between his locker number and his combination. oooooooooooo! This brought a smile to Ms. Hilarides' face - "I'm going to like YOU!", she said.

We finally pulled ourselves out of the school building and realized that each of the boys has a classroom in the corner of a building this year. Max's is the corner closest to our home, too. We got home just after Dad arrived from the Metra station. Now Auntie Lisa is here for a visit, and Sam is giving Max a crash course on the French horn.

I'm famished -

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The First Years are Hard Years

Ari cried on the walk to school and also for the first 15 minutes. "Don't leave me. I'm not big." He was the only tearful kid in his class, but I did see another K student weeping somewhere. I'm sure a lot of his feelings today have to do with being up 'til midnight last night. I think he snuck out of his room 3 times. Anyway, he'll be more tired today and ready to get to bed on time tonight.

All of us walked him in, and the class was filled with parents. There seemed to be about 10 spider-man backpacks in the cubbies. I talked to a few parents this morning at the orientation. The biggest news for me was that the K grade is hiring assistants for the classrooms, entirely through parent donations and initiative. They already have enough to hire 2 assistants to float between the 3 kindergarten classrooms and will hire a third as soon as they can. So, it's good to know that most of the time the teacher:student ratio will be more like 1:14.

The student population is quite diverse, and the parents are very friendly. They seem to be eager to volunteer, too. Ari will be at recess at 11, and lunch at 11:20. We'll pick him up at 3:30. I really, really hope he enjoys something about his day today!

See more pictures here.

Monday, September 3, 2007

It Takes a Village

We are enjoying our village life. We live within a few blocks of two small grocery stores, three book stores, a cleaners, several restaurants, not to mention the boys' schools. My walk to work is all of 6 blocks and takes 12 minutes. I don't miss having a car one bit. Yesterday, we walked around the Museum of Science and Industry, stopped at the Osaka Gardens, and then we went to the beach - all a few blocks from our home. See our pictures here.

Ari starts school tomorrow.