The last few weeks of 2013 were a flurry in both weather and activity. Here’s how we spent our holiday break at the residence.
Friday, December 20th
Most of the students were still at LEA, and we took a trip to Salt Lake to visit the Leonardo museum of science, technology, art, and creativity. There, in partnership with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the museum was displaying the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Our students were able to experience a live actor give a multi-media introduction to the discovery of the scrolls, view many ancient artifacts on display with a personal audio tour, and get a close view of many of the scroll fragments on display.
That evening, the students who would be on campus for Christmas decorated stockings and enhanced some of the house’s decorations with their own flair.
Monday, December 23rd
We started the morning by jumping, flipping, and flopping at thewAIRhouse trampoline park. It was fun to see some of the tricks and abilities the kids demonstrated! There were also dodge ball and basketball trampoline courts for some extra excitement.
That afternoon, the kids viewed a message from “the chief” the week’s “secret service mission”. They learned that each day, they would receive a dossier detailing a different task to complete. At each service location, they would find an informant with a piece of cipher for them to decode. At the end of the week, after they decoded the entire message, they would be led to the location of a trunk containing something of interest to them.
The first two missions that day involved making cupcakes and holiday cards. Everyone participated in one way or another in the preparation and delivery of the day’s work. The first destination we visited was our local firehouse, where the firemen on duty gave us a tour and showed us the engines. Afterwards, we visited a local care center and gave the remaining cupcakes and cards to the residents there.
That evening, everyone piled into the vans to see the holiday lights at Thanksgiving Point and returned for some hot cocoa and sleep.
Tuesday, December 24th
The morning started out with a relaxed brunch of crepes, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, and juice. It only got better when we went to the University of Utah and saw the Pioneer Theater Company‘s outstanding production of the movie-turned-stage musical, Elf. The talent was remarkable, the scenery was larger-than-life, the costumes were fanciful, and the book and music were a knock-out.
After returning to the house, the kids volunteered to be in one of two groups. The first went to an outdoor ice skating rink in Salt Lake, and the others completed the next secret service task. Those in the second group went to Target and picked out presents for kids who would be in Primary Children’s Hospital over the holidays. After picking out a wide assortment of little things, they wrapped and delivered them.
That evening, they unwrapped an early Christmas present – the animated Tom Hanks movie, The Polar Express. We set up the projector and they watched the film and relaxed.
Wednesday, December 25th
Christmas morning dawned with discovering what Santa had brought, opening presents, and calling family. Many of the students had asked to see the second Hunger Games movie, and were surprised by a trip to the theaters that afternoon to do so. That evening, their secret service task was to take the random acts of kindness cards provided and choose little projects of their own invention around the house for peers, teachers, etc.
Thursday, December 26th
On Thursday morning, we pulled out the karaoke machine and the wii to play some games at the house. We worked together to make several batches of chocolate chip cookies and put them in gift boxes. After group therapy, the kids delivered the boxes to the different House of Hope locations around Salt Lake, which provides substance abuse treatment for women, pregnant women, and mothers with children.
Friday, December 27th
The final task for the week of secret service missions took the kids to the Humane Society of Utah to socialize with the animals. They played with cats, dogs, rodents, and bunnies and we loved watching how much love was exchanged. When they got the final piece of cipher and decoded it, they learned the location and password for the trunk. It contained popcorn, soft drinks, and the Mission Impossible movie, which we watched together after groups.
That evening, everyone went to the Rose Wagner theater to watch the Intermountain Therapy Animals (that come to La Europa on Sundays) perform in a production called Pupcracker: A Canine Nutcracker. It was really enjoyable, and proceeds went to support their worthy cause. (Some footage from a past year’s production can be seen here.)
Monday, December 30th
As students started returning to the house, we had a few more activities together. On Monday, we split into communities and participated in Walmart bingo. Each team got a bingo board and explored Walmart together, looking for the things listed. As they found them, they were able to cross them off and attempt to beat the other team in speed and number of spotted items. The winning team won a prize. The therapists conducted groups and the kids also had some time for study hall this day. The students were able to participate in PE that evening.
Tuesday, December 31st
Tuesday was a big day at La Europa, as the kids participated in Iron Chef: Battle Citrus. Each community would cook an appetizer, main course, and dessert that incorporated some form of citrus. They had the day to plan menus, shop for ingredients (and stay within a predetermined budget), and finally showcase their culinary panache as they prepared the dishes and wowed the judges. In addition to working together, they had opportunities to practice conflict resolution skills and time management as the clock ticked down toward dinner. Everyone enjoyed the variety of food and delicious efforts of the participants that evening before watching the ball drop in New York and celebrating the new year.
Wednesday, January 1st
On our final day of break, we started with one final competition. In two randomly selected groups, the kids received tracking sheets for a photo scavenger hunt, with each item’s point value weighted according to difficulty. Each team then drove off to locate as many items as they could within the specified time limit, taking a picture to document what they found. They demonstrated creativity in capturing some of the listed items, and the winning team enjoyed a prize for their efforts.
After study hall, the kids gathered for a final culminating activity. Each person received an invitation to dinner that evening. Enclosed in the invitation was a character description and some costume suggestions. The kids then had time to gather and dress up in costumes, decorating different areas in the house and school for their subsequent dinner parties. Valery, our cook, prepared a special roast dinner and the staff served it and the sparkling cider to each “guest” as they chatted to each other in character. After dinner, they learned that there was a detective in their midst and that they were all suspects in a murder investigation. Each “guest” received a booklet, detailing things they must disclose about others and conceal about themselves. Play proceeded in rounds, with more pieces of the puzzle being revealed with every round. At the end, guests were given a chance to make accusations before the solution was revealed, character by character.
We had a lot of fun together over the break! We look forward to seeing many of our families in the fast-approaching parent days ahead.