Thursday, June 16, 2016

Roberts' Visit

Some of our Payson cousins came to visit this weekend! What a treat it was to have them. My kids bounced around between the lot of them, enjoying each other inside, outside, at the lake, in the car, as a group, and individually. Occasionally, I was lucky enough to have a camera around to capture their happiness.
 Thanks for making the harrowing standby-flying-with-five-people trip to see us, Hilary and girls! We sure love you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Death Valley Open Water Swim Meet 2016


Each year in June, the CAT swim team Zane's a part of puts on a HUGE open water swim meet. (As in, I just found us ranked as #21 in openwaterswimming.com's top 100 open water swims in the country.) As I was explaining to my sister-in-law who came to visit this weekend, it's PARENT-organized, PARENT-run, and PARENT-apparent in the coolest way. We really have some committed swim families in this bunch. We are learning much.
 Zane swam this meet before he even joined the team, but it wasn't until the next year (2 summers ago) that B and I were roped into our current job title of "PARKING ENFORCERS." Doesn't that sound fun? I believe that first year, the job sat unclaimed for months before someone delicately approached us and asked if we could step up and fill in. Sure, we said, but why is it so unpopular? Turns out, you have to arrive before ANYONE else (besides the dear folks who camp overnight to watch over all the everything) which in this year's case means 5:39am. Once in place, you have to (with newfound expertise) pack all arriving cars into an unmarked lot as tightly-yet-safely as possible. Then, once the (smallish) lot is filled up (this year it happened at 6:47am), you get to continuously turn hopeful and often rushed and anxious participants away, telling them there is no room in the inn and they have to park way, way down the hill at the end of the lane. (At least this year we had a shuttle! Which only about half of the grumpies took advantage of!) And you get to do that for another 2 full hours, as temperatures rise and tempers flare, until the first racers (the crazy 5kers) are finished and leaving. Yeah, good times! But one of my favorite parts about my husband is his uncanny ability to crush people's dreams AND keeping them laughing at the same time, and therefore, we all survived to tell the tale. B really is the perfect person for this crazy mean job. And in my case, I just had to keep saying, "I too really wish you could park there! But if you don't move your car you'll probably get hit or towed. Have a great race!" with a big smile on my face. 
Awesome.
Wait, I think I am supposed to be talking about my son and his race! Here he is on arrival. Lookin' pumped (read: sleepy) Zane! Thank heavens for swim caps!
Zane swam the 3k this year. Heavens to Betsy! (I don't think that's an expression I've used yet to describe these annual swimming feats.) Luckily his race ended around 11am which is when our parking duties FINALLY started to let up a little, so we were able to abandon our post and witness him coming in. He swam those 3000 yards in just over 53 minutes. Funny too, B and I made our way separately over to the water and although we couldn't find each other, we ended up getting Zane from both angles.
 Now that's a real smile!
 So thankful for Brandon's capture below of Z, his two best swimming buds, and their giant (in form and function) of a coach, Big Show. Not sure about the mid-bite or the glasses-over-the-cap effect from Z, but I wasn't there so I can't complain!
 And we think this is pre-race. Happy boys.
 So, another DVOW meet in the books! We'll see you next year in the parking lot! And if you want a space, we'll see you BEFORE 6:45am!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dance Recital 2016

Last weekend was Annie's dance recital. This girl has so enjoyed ballet, jazz, and tap this year, and was in FOUR numbers at the final performance on Saturday. Maybe someday I will make her put all her costumes on again for pictures. For now, you get a few phone pics of a few outfits. Real life, folks.
First, a joint selfie on our way in to dress rehearsal.
The dance studio only rents the Brooks Center for one day, so dress rehearsal is all afternoon, with the concert in the evening. It makes for a looooooooong day, both for the dancers and their groupies (siblings). Luckily, Soren had these light-up sea urchins from Gigi to keep him busy. 
I got to sneak backstage right before Annie's final number to do a quick up-do. I couldn't resist capturing this beauty right in her element, right at "go time." Happy as a clam, not knowing one should be nervous at a time like this!
Now to the grandparent portion of this blog post! Here are some videos from dress rehearsal. Now, people. Remember who you're dealing with videographer-wise on these. They are not ideal. But they are something until the real DVD comes along.
First up, Tap. Wham! Bam! Alakazam! Annie is second from the left (furtherest left in the back row).
Wished I'd been over to the left a bit more myself.
Then, Geronimo! This one was the least clear in its artistic direction (aka I don't know what's going on ever or where Annie is ever), but we got to bring costumes from home (read: free!) so I'm not complaining. Okay, I just watched it again, here's the deal. Annie's in the first row of the first group, so she was dancing in the dark while the lighting guys worked our their business. They got the lighting right just as she ran off stage, great! Then another group comes on for a while. At the minute mark, Annie's back in it and dancing, first row further left. For about 15 seconds. Then off again, and I never find her again until the last 2 seconds. Sigh. Free costumes, remember.
After intermission were the two ballet numbers. First, Hallelujah. Very pretty. Annie (who is on the right side of the stage this time, 2 or 3 in, depending on the moment) had a great little solo about halfway in (minute 1:15), but as you can see, the lighting/placing on stage was a little wonky.
So they decided to try it once more, and I was so proud of myself because I got this first one up on youtube and deleted it for my phone just in time to record the second try! As you've guessed by now my phone was all filled up and there was barely any space, but I was SO CAREFUL to delete the other videos in time; I was SURE we were golden! Except, I forgot one thing: I forgot that one extra step you have to do of DELETING your deleted files, once and for all! A nice detail for those careless deleters who need their deletes back, but MADDENING for folks like me who need to only have to remember to delete once for crying out loud!
All this is to say I only got half the dance the second time. Bleh. Oh well. 
Next was Tarantella, but let's face it, we've seen enough of that happy dance. Here, instead, is a non-camera phone picture of the final pose, sent to me later by another mom. Victory! 
The other noteworthy part of the evening was Soren's, ahem, performance in the aisle while the 1st half was going down. That kid has sat through hours of dance rehearsals now, and when it came time, he couldn't stop the music from moving within him. He had to DANCE! It was a bit like the first few moments of the video below, taken at the tail end of dress rehearsal. And look, you get to see a little Tarantella after all. You're welcome!
 I had many people comment to me later that Soren was more entertaining than the real thing, but I was still a bit mortified so dear Brandon took him up to the balcony for the second half of the program. This allowed both me and all the people around us to watch in peace, thank heavens! When I found them after the concert, Soren was zonked! But that funny picture is on Brandon's phone, so it will have to wait to be added later. For now, the kids want me to finish this up already so they can watch the videos! Peace, we're outta here!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Last Day of School

WE MADE IT!! Wait, I guess I mean they made it. But man, I feel like it's as hard or harder for the mother who has to wake everybody up every day!  We should get to join in the celebration too, right? Here here! (For comparison shots from last fall, look here. Annie's crazy/happy hasn't changed much, it seems!)
My cheeky boy seems to still be cheeky.  He has been a trooper though, going to get the kids with me every afternoon, either by bike or by foot. Last day of school was by foot, and it was a little HOT so he was a little DEAD by our walk home. I have a picture of that if you'd like, for later.
At the end of last week, Zane declared he was NOT going to school these last two half days. "I've said my goodbyes, I'm never going back," he claimed. Then, a few hours later, he bolted upright and said, "Wait, did I forget my (public) library book at school? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" I giggled just a little to myself, as he's only forgotten his library book a thousand times this school year. Why would his wannabe last day be any different?  So he went to school on the last day. And when he got to class, his teacher told him she'd already returned it to the public library for him. Lol.
Needless to say, he REALLY shouted for joy when he busted through the back doors for a final time. I made him do a jump for joy (do you like his little shadow man?), but will have to work on my cool pic timing there. 
We had one additional buddy for our walk home. Soren is a fan of her cheekiness, I think.
Hooray for the end of a great school year. 
Today we went to the gym, a ballet class, the middle school to choose a band instrument for next year, home for a voice lesson, to a neighbor's house for a pool party, home again for 15 minutes of SUMMER CHILL TIME (newly instigated by ME), then off to the lake for swim team practice and more water play. Goodness gracious, I'm ready for more summer chill time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Charleston/Spoleto 2016

One of the VERY coolest thing about living in South Carolina is having Charleston close enough to hop, skip, and jump over to. Seriously, when we came through for the first time with B's family 6 years ago, I thought to myself "Soak this up, it may be a once in a lifetime visit!" How happy I am I was wrong! 
Shortly after that first visit, we learned about the Spoleto Music Festival that happens in Charleston every year around Memorial Day. SIGN US UP! Add in some of our dearest friends (who I think I've yet to fully name on this public blog--go me!) and we've got a match made in Michelle heaven.
Sure, this time our car broke down an hour into the trip and we got to (had to) stay at a Spinx gas station (yes that is spelled correctly and yes that word make me uncomfortable) for three hours while we waited for a tow/rental car AND tropical depression Bonnie came for a visit one of the mornings, but in between those eventful events, we had a glorious time!
The Battery is almost always our first stop in downtown Charleston. We park along the edge and Zane heads straight for the trees. Be still my heart, the trees! Reminds me of Florida, without the messy mossy moss. So, even better.
 This particular morning, the skies were already threatening and I knew in my heart any pictures taken would have to be heavily brightened (as seen above) so I snapped this one more of Soren and called it good for the morning. Little did I know there wouldn't be many more dry opportunities! Oh well, we'll be back soon enough!
(showing off his guns by the guns, er, cannons---seemed like a clearer comparison at the time)

 Actually, right after I decided to give the phone camera a rest, Zane came over and asked if he could take a picture of a bird. This fellow has a soft place in his heart for animals (and many other creatures, as I was reminded this trip). Sure, Zane H-A-T-E-S being in front of the camera for seemingly endless "cheeses," but he really loved looking behind the lens this time around. Below are all Z. Some were taken on purpose; the coolest one, however, might have been an accident. You'll see.
 From the Battery, we made our way not east through a few favorite streets (King, Meeting) to Washington Square where the kids could race in our new stroller (we named him Bobby) and the rest of us could attempt group selfies (um, sure Michelle, like this was any of these folks' idea besides yours. You're just lucky you caught them off guard!)
 After the square, we continued our way east, hoping to play near the pineapple fountains at Waterfront Park. However, the rain began sprinkling, so we changed our plans and headed for lunch instead. Jackpot on lunch this time, dudes. Poogan's Steakhouse. Delicious. By then, it was really raining, but we couldn't be deterred from our second most important tradition (besides Spoleto, you know): Belgium GELATO on Vendue Range. Happy campers after that experience, the whole lot of us (as shown by the two smallest members of our crew):
 As we arrived for gelato, Q asked me if Zane had told us their secret. Turns out they had already taken him to get gelato the night before, on their way to "The Importance of Being Earnest" (which Z LOVED, btw). Why have gelato once in a trip to Charleston when you can have it more than once?
Nice one, Zane.
As the rain continued, our dads went and got the cars and we headed back to the hotel for the afternoon. There, we took part in probably the kids' very favorite part of the trip: swimming at the indoor pool! Sure, we could have been anywhere America at that point. But the kids had a great time, the moms got in a wonderful chat, and everyone was wet on purpose! Boo yah.
Later that night, B and I attended the 40th anniversary Spoleto festival Extravaganza concert. We sat in the third-to-last row in the immense and super amazing Gaillard concert hall (here's a cool website about it). It was an incredible night! Best part was when the Westminster Choir sang a number from the top balcony, on either side of us. It was so so so cool. Three minutes or less, and it made both the car troubles and weather ridiculous totally worth it. Thanks for being my date, B.
 Okay, moving on! (I'm feeling quite long winded at the moment. Like the good ol' days!) The next day first we waited out the storm a bit (watching outside our hotel window was like watching the weather channel with sideways trees and crazy meteorologists yelling, "It's REALLY CRAZY OUT HERE!!") then when it subsided we (and the rest of the Charleston tourists-with-children) went to the South Carolina aquarium, where once again my phone was commandeered by my 11 year old for the taking of many animal pictures. 
 
(cutest creature of all, don't you think? He got to touch a star fish or 12, and in the middle of it put his hands up in victory fists and yelled, "I really love this!!")
 
 It was a really fun time together! We caught a quick lunch afterward at another score of a place (Eastbay Deli, right by the aquarium) and were on our way home.
We were welcomed home by these in-our-front-yard beauties! Blooms everywhere! Turns out there's more than one happy place in South Carolina.
 Until next year, Charleston!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Potpurri

I heard shrieks of joy outside the other morning and looked out to see this: doubled up swinging! Thank you big kids for including slightly-less-big-but-ever-growing kid!
 Since I was out there I helped Soren get into the new sandbox under the play structure. He posed for the picture below, then started shrieking again--and this time it wasn't shrieks of joy. "MONSTERS!" he cried. "MOM, HELP, MONSTERS!" Obviously worried (roaches, termites, shiver), I peeked into the sandbox. Um.................. potato bugs. Rolie Polies. Not monsters. I giggled, then tried to assure my shrieker as I scooped them out. 
 These two giggled along with me. They are great little companions. Thank heavens for wonderful neighbors.
 ***
I realized something this week. When your kids are small and do cool stuff, you can share it on the blog without feeling braggy. We all love a good Soren story, right? But as your kids grow and continue to do cool stuff, it's harder to report on without sounding braggy. So I'm going to brag instead about our garden and our hydrangeas, and mix in completely neutral stories about Zane and Annie, just for fun. Or something. :) 
Here is our garden haul from this past weekend. Kale for days! :) Zane has said in earlier weeks that it's too bad most of our garden goodies are green. Green = not as good as non-green. Actually, I had a really big salad to make yesterday and was so glad to be able to "share" all that kale. And in the meantime, the non-green things are beginning their moment in the sun.
Zane had his swim banquet last Thursday evening. He told me going in it was his favorite night of the year. "Good friends, great food and lots of it, awards, and a team gift! Nothing can beat it!" I am so happy he's found a home with this wonderful, hard working team. And at the end of the night, he came home with a new CAT-monogrammed (clemson aquatic team) fleece blanket (monogramming is big here in the south--the only place I've lived where this is the case) AND a trophy for being the most improved swimmer in his age group. When presenting the award, his coach said, "Zane is always ready to swim, be it at the beginning of practice, or 5 minutes after the end of practice when you have to yell at him to get out. And he loves Butterfly, which makes him even more remarkable." Zane beamed during the speech, and so did I! Hard-working, easy going, wonderful kid.
***
 The Hydrangeas are out, and starting to overtake their own bushes with yellow and blue deliciousness.
 I'll add more pics when all the blooms look like this:
Speaking of flowers blooming, our Annie has had the chance to work one-on-one this month with the extraordinary Russian ballerina who usually teaches only the older girls at her ballet studio. They are learning a variation from the ballet, "Don Quixote" and it has been a thrill to watch the two rehearse together. As Annie's mom, I am used to getting much backlash and attitude whenever I try and correct or advise (I mean come on, we all remember Annie at 2, right? 3? 4?), so I really wondered how she would handle one-on-one tutelage from such a professional. I'm so happy to report that she's taken to it beautifully, and I actually see the two of them having a blast during their lesson. The teacher expects the best and Annie gives it to her, in technique, attitude, and style. They bound together across the room like two gorgeous gazelles, while I remember my own stumblings in Ballet I at Wyoming and laugh at the memory. I'm so happy to see Annie in her element. It has been a real treat this month.
***
Um, did someone say Gardenia scents to back up the Hydrangeas in the front yard? May, you're my favorite.