Saturday, March 15th, 2014

gymnastics on a soccer field

Annie had her next to last meet last weekend in Sioux Falls. The state meet will take place next weekend, then we’ll be done with meets until next winter. Her level/age group was competing on Sunday first thing in the morning, so Annie and I got up ridiculously early to drive 1 1/2 hours to the meet. Of course, it didn’t help that it was also daylight savings that day. I set my alarm twice (one on time and one for an hour early) just in case my phone was a jerk and didn’t make the switch early enough. We arrived a bit early and sat out in the car and noticed lots of kids going inside wearing shorts and cleats. I said to Annie that there must be a soccer game going on. Annie seemed completely baffled by that concept, soccer inside and in the same building as her gymnastics meet. It turns out that the fieldhouse that the meet was in was basically a colossal arena with astroturf, and it was divided into six sections for various events (mostly soccer). Later on Annie complained about having to sit on the astroturf while waiting for her turn because it was itchy and scratchy.

Ok, let’s get on with Annie’s results. Some people have mentioned that they like seeing Annie’s routines even though they remain the same throughout the season, so I made sure to capture some video this time around.

First up was bars. I was so nervous for Annie because she’s been struggling with doing her front hip circles all season, but she finally figured it out. Not just that but she scored a 9.10 and placed 8th in her age group!

Then it was on to beam, and Annie pulled off another fantastic routine scoring 9.0 and getting 2nd in her age group.

Next up was the floor, and Annie did an awesome job with a score of 9.0 and placing 7th in her age group.

Lastly, Annie’s team did the vault. She scored a 9.225 which wasn’t enough to grant her a medal. I’m not sure what she needs to do to improve since there doesn’t seem to be much to the “routine”.

For all of Annie’s hard work she also earned herself a 3rd place trophy for All Around for her age group. Afterward I treated Annie to a sushi lunch since we finished up right around noon.
Annie ate sushi after her great scores at her gymnastics meet!

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

cruise away from winter

After we had our South Beach adventure last year Mike and I decided we should make it an annual tradition. This time Mike came up with the idea to take a cruise. How could I refuse that offer. I got to work on my research almost the second Mike made the suggestion, and I found us one that stopped in the Caribbean in February. February seems like the optimal time to leave South Dakota because we are at the worst of our cabin fever.

The cruise ship we ended up going on was through Royal Caribbean called the Allure of the Seas. We came to find out that it is the largest cruise ship in the world. The ship was geared more toward those with kids or who felt like kids. They have FlowRiders for surfing and boogie boarding, a zip line, a rock climbing wall, a water park for smaller kids, areas where kids can be dropped off without parents, and so on. But there were also plenty of grown-up things like a comedy club, theatre which was featuring Chicago the Musical, an aqua theatre with a cool acrobatic show (they also showed newer movies a couple of nights), and a few other things like that. Mike said he felt like he was on a Walmart of the Seas, but it was a truly a gorgeous ship that was so well-maintained and efficient. We never had to wait for anything whether it be food, poolside chairs, events, and so on. The staff really did tend to our needs and made us feel so important. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves at first, but by middle of the week we found things to keep busy. Mostly during the day we just lounged around outside in the sun reading books. Mike did have a class for 3 mornings, but they seemed to go by really fast. It was a little weird to be assigned to the same dinner table and people each night, but by the end of the week they were all our best friends. Two of the couples were actually on the cruise for the same reason as us, the continuing education course.

On Monday we stopped in Nassau, Bahamas, for 5 hours but we decided to just stay on the ship. The second stop we made was in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on Wednesday. We had scheduled a scuba diving excursion offered by the ship. This was just an introduction to scuba, so Mike and I had to receive a mini training session before diving. We got to snorkel around while we waited for our group to be trained. The mask I wore was quite uncomfortable and pushed my upper lip into my braces really hard leaving tears, so I ended up feeling kind of rotten afterward. So by the time we got to scuba diving my body went into panic-mode. Mike ended up going without me while I just lazed in the sun on the boat. I was totally fine with that, believe me. I was just glad Mike got the opportunity to try some scuba diving. He actually loved it. They toured an old ship wreck about 40-50 feet below and saw a coffee table sized sea turtle. We’ve decided that after I get my braces off we’d like to get scuba certified and make our next trip scuba-themed. We’ll see! Here we are not long after boarding the boat and getting our flippers assigned to us.
cruise feb 2014

The next stop was in St. Maarten, Virgin Islands on Thursday. Again we scheduled an excursion ahead of time. I did some research beyond what the cruise ship offered and found a snorkel group that people were raving about at TripAdvisor.com, and they did not disappoint. We got to be on the boat with the owner and his son who had recently joined him to be a partner in his business. Our entire trip took place on the French side of the island. There is a Dutch side that is U.S. dollar-based and English-speaking, and the French side is Euro-based and French-speaking. The guides first took us to a spot to snorkel to an area where sea turtles and stingray are prevalent. We did see a few sea turtles and other beautiful fish. Then it was lunch time. See those blue chairs with the orange umbrellas? That’s where we ate, but the catch was that we had to swim from the boat to the beach first…haha. Lunch was superb! I had the mahi mahi with frites and Mike got the mahi mahi with the local rice and bean dish.
cruise Feb 2014

Shortly after lunch we went snorkeling at another area that was packed full of gorgeous, exotic fish of every color. Then we stopped at this exclusive, French resort to swim around for a bit. Apparently, this is the most expensive resort on the island.
cruise Feb 2014

The last part of our tour was stop right at the end of the airport runway. Apparently, the bigger airplanes need every inch of the runway which literally ends at the edge of the water. So when planes are landing you feel like they are going to hit you. Here’s a video I got of a decent-sized plane landing.

Here we are returning to the ship after our enjoyable journey. Mike and I actually got much more color the next two days at sea so much so that I decided I wanted to stay in the shade the last day for fear of getting too dark. Annie is so excited that I’m darker than her now (for a few days anyway). She hates being the darkest one in our family. Oh, just wait until she’s older and all the girls her age will pay top bucks to have her color.
cruise Feb 2014

Like I said Mike and I pretty much just lounged all week, but on the last couple of days Mike decided he needed to at least try some of the fun stuff on the ship. He attempted the surfing and had much better success boogie boarding. I would have tried, too, but there were bleachers set up at each FlowRider that had quite a bit of groupies. I did not want an audience to witness me falling flat on my hiney. We wanted to try the rock-climbing wall, but it required socks. Who brings socks on a Caribbean cruise? And neither of us were interested in ziplining.

Our room attendant, Wanda, was really sweet and always seemed to be right there to do stuff for us. She left us towel art on a few of the nights.
cruise Feb 2014cruise Feb 2014

We did have a balcony with ocean view which was super cool. We’d eat our breakfast out there some mornings, and Mike insisted on always keeping the sliding door open when we were in the room. We spotted a rainbow one day.
cruise Feb 2014

The ship had several shops, restaurants, bars, and other places that cost extra. Occasionally, we stopped at a cupcake bakery for a cupcake. Princess Fiona reminded us of our girls. We also decided to have sushi for dinner instead of eating in the main dining room for an extra fee. We also had lunch at Johnny Rockets one day.
cruise Feb 2014

As you can see Mike and I didn’t take many pictures. We have found that without kids we tend to forget about the camera. I did want to buy an underwater camera to use during snorkeling and scuba diving, but Mike felt it would only get used for this one trip. I beg to differ. I would definitely be up for another cruise a few years down the road, but Mike says he’d rather find an island like St. Maarten to visit for a week and scuba dive. We both still had a wonderful time with just the two of us.

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

saddle up for mimi’s birthday party [warning: picturous overloadious]

Mimi is growing up. However, she’s my only child who seems to revel in childhood whereas the other two want to grow up as fast as they can. Objectionable noises and smells regularly come from her, and Mimi’s never embarrassed to claim them. Mimi is absolutely my loudest kid with her operatic singing and other made up sounds. Mike says Mimi reminds him of himself at that age, so that could mean she’ll end up with a witty sense of humor in her elder years. As much as she can drive us all crazy we love Mimi and wouldn’t change a thing about her. I really do look forward to her antics each day because life is so interesting with Mimi around.

Mimi has been asking for a slumber birthday party since her last birthday. When December arrived Mimi was already asking if we could make her invitations. I had to put her off for several weeks with daily reminders. Finally, three weeks before her party we made the invitations and sent them with her to school. The next step was having to listen to her incessant questioning of whether the parents called to RSVP yet. I only let her invite 3 girls and two girls responded yes. I didn’t know if she’d survive the excitement of having to wait until the actual day. Of course, Mimi requested a horse-themed invitation/party. {The lack of Annie from all the pictures is because Mimi didn’t invite her to the party…j/k. Actually Annie had gymnastics and didn’t get home until after 9:00 p.m.}
mimi9thbday

The day finally arrived, and Mimi brought home two extra kids on the bus. They first watched a movie and ate pizza. Again, the enthusiasm got to Mimi so much that she wouldn’t sit down the entire movie.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

It was requested that minute-to-win-it games be played, and I was more than happy to oblige. They are very easy to prepare. First up was “Suck It Up” where they had to suck up m&m’s with a straw and put 5 in a cup. They all figured it out pretty quickly.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

Next up was “Puddle Jumper” where they had to get a ping pong into each cup. This one took a while to complete, but the girls liked it so much to play several times each.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

Then there was “Face the Cookie”. A favorite game but quite difficult for everyone. Violet would just slide the cookie down her face with her hand and declare herself the winner every few seconds. That made us all chuckle. Mimi actually did get the cookie in her mouth first.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

And finally the girls played “Elephant Trunk” where they had to knock down the cups with their “trunks”. The kids always get a good giggle during this game.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

The moment arrived for cake. I surprised Mimi with her horse head cake, and she was very pleased. I will say I was quite pleased with how it turned out as well especially since I did it all by myself.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

At last we ended the night with the presents. Mimi got some fun gifts from her friends and family. She thanks everyone immensely!
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

As part of the gift bags that went home with the guests I included this picture along with a neon-colored bandana, bandana slap bracelet, lip gloss, and a horse ball (a bouncy ball with a horse head inside). All the gifts were nestled inside a cute horse and mare tote. The horse balls (ahem…get your mind outta that gutter) are by far the most popular of the goodies. I keep seeing them flying by my head every hour since the party.
Mimi's 9th Birthday PartyMimi's 9th Birthday Party

The next day I asked Mimi how her birthday party went, and she said it was the best night of her life. I guess it was a success. Happy 9th birthday to our Harvey!

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

dragging on

This winter. Need I say more? Just when I think that it’s going to warm up, the temps drop again. And then the winds decide they don’t want the temps getting all the attention and outdo them. I’m guessing most of us in the midwest are dealing with these lovely weather patterns, so I won’t keep complaining.

Sara was here last week for work-related reasons, and the way we entertained her was to drag her to a basketball game at the girls’ school. Actually, Mimi’s grade along with the 2nd graders were singing “the Star-Spangled Banner” before the game. There was also a Whopper Feed fundraiser, so I told Sara she could feed herself by herself or come with us. She chose the latter. I’m a great host, huh?
Mimi singing at bball gameMimi singing at bball gameMimi singing at bball game

Then on Saturday the family attended the Pheasants Forever banquet. Pheasants Forever is an organization that works on preserving habitat for pheasants and other wildlife. They had live and silent auctions, dinner, and games. The girls busied themselves running around with their Pheasant Bucks playing games. They each won a hat in the door prize raffle. It was a fun night to get out and spend time with the locals.
Hat winners

The girls sure do know how to keep themselves occupied while cooped up inside. Violet was channeling all things 80’s while Mimi was trying out a new hairstyle called the beard.
The 80's are backNew hairstyle, the beard

Mimi’s birthday was yesterday. Instead of celebrating then, she will instead have a birthday slumber party tomorrow night. Of course, pictures will be forthcoming.

Monday, January 27th, 2014

jungle rumble and winded

Annie had her third gymnastics meet this past Saturday. The theme for the meet was Rumble in the Jungle and was in Sioux Falls. I’ll spare you pictures and videos because you’ve seen them already…haha. She had a meet at the beginning of December, too, but I “failed” to mention due to her poor performance. Seriously, even Mike was commenting that she was definitely off her game and seemed to everyone that she was lacking confidence in every event.. This meet though she did pretty fantastic. Her scores were 9.45 on vault, 7.875 on beam (she’s been struggling lately), 8.95 on floor, and 9.275 on beam. Ultimately, she got medals for 5th on vault in her age group and 2nd on beam in her age group. Annie definitely showed more confidence this time. She also got a participation medal. Afterward I treated the girls to a day at the mall where they each got to pick out an item to buy, and we ate dinner in the fancy food court. Mike was out ice-fishing with the scouts, so there was no rush to get home.

annie did good...2 medals at her latest gymnastics meet

On Sunday the weather took a turn for the worse (Saturday was awesome, sunny and high 30’s). The winds got up over 50 mph, and the temps dropped to the negatives again. Church was cancelled, so we enjoyed huddling inside together as a family. The girls played lots, Annie made her first attempt at baking chocolate cookies by herself (something went a little wrong, and we ended up with cookie balls instead), and we got some work done that may have gotten neglected while being away all day Friday and Saturday. School got delayed today, and I enjoyed the extra hour or so of sleep.

This is mostly what Violet did during the day on Sunday.
vi and baby kitty