Twin Cities Rumble 2018

Recently, Michael represented Forte’s American Karate, White Bear Lake, in the 2018 Twin Cities Rumble. He hasn’t competed much since he got his black belt, but he decided to do a couple of tournaments this year. I think he was nervous, because once you are at the black belt level, it doesn’t matter what degree you are at – all black belts compete against each other within their age division. Now that he’s a few months from getting his 2nd degree black belt, I guess he decided he was ready.

Black belts from both White Bear Lake and Wyoming, waiting for their turns to compete.

Michael is 12. This is an awkward age for boys. Some have had growth spurts, some have not. Michael has grown over 4 inches since September, but is still in the middle of the other boys in his age division. Typically, he has been in a fairly large division, so they divide them by height. In one tournament, Michael was the tallest of the shorter kids’ group (though, they were all within an inch of each other). In the Rumble, he was the shortest of the taller boys’ group. The rest of the boys were about an inch (if not two) taller than him. Luckily, he’s used to sparring his teacher that is about 6 ft. tall.

Some Forte Karate black belts stretching. Michael, Natalia, and Sarah.

When I got to the tournament, Michael told me his back was hurting. It sounded like some sort of pinched nerve. I gave him ibuprofen,  and hoped the adrenaline would kick in, and he wouldn’t feel it. While he was waiting for his turn to spar, he and some friends were warming up, stretching, etc. It seemed like his back was ok, so I didn’t think any more about it – until his first match.

Michael is really good at kicking. He’s quite flexible, and fast, so he usually has no problem getting in the zone for points. Kicks are worth two points, punches are worth one. His whole first match, I don’t think he kicked at all! I guess his back was bugging him more than I thought. 😦  Michael did not win his first match.

These two boys were pretty evenly matched. There were many clashes like this one that resulted in no points.

The second match, Michael fought very well. He remembered to use his legs, and didn’t seem to be in any pain. The match was tied, the other kid got a punch in, and then “TIME!” was called. Michael lost by one point. That match could have gone to either one of them. I enjoy watching sparring matches that go back and forth, or continue to get tied up…

All in all, the competitors from both of Forte’s schools did very well. Many of the black belt competitors from our schools placed in the Top 3 in their divisions. It was a long day. Many of them them helped with judging, score keeping, or time keeping in the mornings, and then waited for hours to compete, as their divisions were quite large. They didn’t let it get to them, and worked hard.

Here was a nick block by Michael. He blocked the kick, and scored a point with his punch.


Another great block by Michael. You can see by the look on his face that he was ready to get kicked in the head. 



Michael saw this pic and thought his kick looked good, but said he needs to work on his hands.


Real Life Dance Moms

Many people who are not in the dance world, have a misguided idea that Dance Moms sit around fighting with each other about who has the better dancer. People think there is non-stop drama, and yelling. They think our world revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines.

Once, I was talking to a friend about a role I was playing in a local musical. He told me I wasn’t playing my character “bitchy”enough. He said to me, “I know you’re a dance mom, and you wear jeans with bling on the pocket, that means you have more bitch potential.” I know he was joking around, but that has stuck with me for a couple years. He’s not the only one that has made comments to me about what it’s like to be a dance mom. People ask me all the time, “Is it really like it is on the show?”

I’m here to tell you once and for all, that the answer is “Not usually, but sometimes it is.” We are fortunate enough to be a part of a studio that’s not like that. Any time you have a bunch of women together, there will occasionally be drama. Sometimes, feelings are hurt when some dancers move up a group and others don’t. Occasionally, there may be parents who feel their children should be featured in dances, but aren’t. Sometimes, parents are struggling with personal issues, and end up taking it out on others, because their dance family is who they are most comfortable with.  What I usually find, though, is the parents who have the most talented dancers, are very sweet, social, and very supportive of all the dancers in their studio. Many are quite humble. They are not bragging about how their child is the best, like what people see on TV.

Side note: I’m not saying that there aren’t dads involved in their daughters’ dance lives – we have an amazing group of dads that are very involved in their daughters’ dance activities. They volunteer countless hours to help build props, set up and take down props during competitions, etc. The moms though, are the ones that are usually sitting at the studio, making sure schedules are figured out, making sure all the costumes pieces are there, and going backstage to help with quick costume or hair changes, etc. The moms are the ones that have the stigma, and that’s what I want to dispel…

My daughter’s first year in competition, I really had no idea what I was doing. Other moms in the studio had some good advice for me, and helped me get my dancer through the year. The next year, we moved to the Twin Cities. Expectations were higher, and we felt as though we were muddling our way through at first. As I started talking to other dance moms, they gave me great advice, such as getting a Dream Duffel to transport all of our costumes and other necessities. We also had a great studio owner who gave us detailed instructions for applying makeup, how to do the expected hairstyles, and what to expect competition days to be like. You can never be truly ready for that first year, but when everyone works together, great things happen.

As the years went on, I saw more and more collaborations between dance moms. I have seen (and have been involved in) carpooling to and from competitions and Nationals, parents helping each other’s dancers with makeup, hairstyles, quick costume changes, etc. We willingly share bobby pins, butt glue or dress tape, hairspray, band-aids, etc. On more than one occasion, I have seen dancers that forgot earrings or shoes, and borrowed from each other. Parents have hosted group sleepovers, other gatherings, team craft projects, etc. Those of us who have been around for a while are there to answer questions for families new to the competition world. We help each other out, and we support each other’s dancers.

On facebook, there are pages for competition moms from all over the country. Sometimes, moms are bragging about the fantastic things their dancers have done (because they are proud); sometimes, they are asking for advice from other dance moms. I have never seen a “my dancer is better than your dancer” post, or anything even close.

At competitions, you will occasionally find parents talking down about another studio. Luckily, that is less often than you would think if you only went with what you know from the show. I often hear dance moms encouraging each other, or even complimenting each others’ studios or dances. They typically tend to be focused on their own studio or dancers, and don’t have time to worry about putting each other down. As I previously mentioned, there is, occasionally, a bit of drama. The biggest issue often has to do with the amount of space one dancer or group is taking up in a dressing room. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone yelling at each other, so there’s that. Or, parents are super stressed, because their dancer forgot something, they are running late, they are dealing with an emotional or moody dancer, etc, and they snap at someone unintentionally.

At the beginning of this post, I said that some people seem to think our world of dance competitions revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines. They are only partly right. Yes, we are usually surrounded by glitter and rhinestones galore. Many of us really enjoy rhinestoning costumes, team jackets, or recital shirts…Our studio usually has minimal sewing for the parents to do. Kids’ costumes are chosen (at least at our studio) by the instructors. They are usually very tasteful. That said, you do have to be comfortable with bare midriffs, and sometimes, nothing but leotards, when at a competition. Sometimes, moves that are done in certain types of  costumes, are less than flattering. Oh well.  Typically, dance moms don’t dress up as if we are going to some awards show, and we don’t typically sit around drinking all the time. I think those aspects are exaggerated for the sake of the TV show. Overall, the atmosphere of dance moms is more helpful than what many people think of based on what they think they know.

I didn’t write this to bash the show I referred to earlier. In it’s early seasons, I enjoyed watching it, because I enjoyed the dancing. As  the focus seemed to shift to the drama between the dance moms and the instructor, I stopped watching. I fully acknowledge the entertainment value of the show, and realize that many people enjoy watching “reality” shows such as that. It certainly had its place in launching Maddie Ziegler’s career! I hope I made the case to show that real life dance moms are not like that.

I love being a dance mom, even if it means hours volunteering at the studio and rhinestoning at home, financial stress, and crazy schedules. I’m a little sad knowing that we only have two competition seasons left, and my daughter will graduate. I know I will still dance at our studio with many of the other moms and friends I have made, but I will miss the chaos of being a Dance Mom!

Kevin Smith – Surprisingly Inspirational

Jason and I went to see Kevin Smith (Twitter: @ThatKevinSmith) tonight at the Acme Comedy Company. This is the second time we’ve been to see “An Evening With Kevin Smith”. It’s a Q & A style show where a few people in the audience get to ask any random question they want. Kevin responds by telling one story which leads to another, which leads to another, and somehow circles back to answer the original question that was asked. It’s impressive how he pulls it all together!

This is the second time we have gone to this show. Tonight’s topics went from his wife, to his dogs, to various people that inspired him in different ways. He spent quite a bit of time talking about George Carlin after someone asked him who his favorite story teller is. I might have to pick up Carlin’s semi-autobiography, Last Words – he sounds like an interesting guy. He picked on Ben Affleck a bit, as he always does… he tends to talk about his friends quite a bit. He also talked about being drawn to people that are grounded in who they are, and how they inspire him.

One very enthusiastic audience member asked Kevin Smith about a movie he had been part of a long time back. That got him talking about the director and how he just went with his vision no matter what people thought about it. Then he brought it back to himself to talk about how he made Clerks because he had been “waiting his whole life for this movie, and no one ever made it.” He wanted it, so he made it. Mostly for himself and his friends. He advised the audience that people shouldn’t be afraid to fail. He said [not quite a direct quote, but close enough], “Get out there and go for what you want… tell your story, whatever. The story you are telling yourself about how it will fail is just a story… you never know what will happen. If you fail, so what? At least you went for it…  You can only fail up… failure is just success training (I know, it sounds like a cat poster)…” If you know Kevin Smith at all, you know there were a few F-bombs in there, such as, “You can do whatever the f*c< you want, the important thing is that you try.” He encouraged people to write down all our ideas… do that podcast, write that book, make that movie…

I went to this show expecting to be entertained. I expected to laugh. I did not expect to be inspired; yet I was. He reminded me how much I enjoy telling stories. I want to write the blog posts that have been floating around in my head. I’m going to try to make a point to carve out more time for that.

The more I see Kevin Smith’s show, the more I like him! I look forward to seeing him again next time he’s in town.


Conversation starter: Comment on what it is you have been wanting to do that you are putting off. Maybe you are putting it off because you haven’t made the time for it, maybe you have been afraid to fail.

Central States Karate Championships – 2017

Earlier this month, Michael and his teammates from Forte’s American Karate, competed in the Central States Karate Championships at Fridley High School. I like this location for tournaments due to its dropped floor in the gym. There are great vantage points all around the gym to watch the tournament from. What I didn’t know, was that there was also a second gym. This is where the black belts and many of the adults competed…

Michael has been nervous to compete ever since he got his black belt a year and a half ago.  He has competed once since then, but didn’t do as well as he had hoped, so he took a break from competing.  He finally decided to give it another go a year later. He decided that he would just spar this time.

This tournament is typically way behind on time. I showed up about a half hour before he was supposed to fight, expecting that he wouldn’t be going for a couple more hours.  They were running pretty much on time, which was a pleasant surprise. We waited for just a short time before the black belts started sparring.

There were 7 boys in the 12-13 year old division. They had them line up by height. Michael was exactly in the middle. The 4 “shorter” boys were all within an inch of each other. The next tallest boy was probably a full inch taller than Michael. I was glad that the ring judges decided that the four boys who were all about the same height would be sparring against each other.

Michael had quite a crew cheering him on. His dad and I were there, his Grandma and Grandpa, and several of his team mates who were done competing for the day. Michael’s fights both went well. He won both of them, taking first place. It was very exciting for him (and those of us who were watching him).

After his fight, we stayed to watch his teacher, Mr. Hallberg, spar in the Men’s 18-29 year old division. He also won his matches, taking first place. He made it look so easy, but it was fun to watch! Michael’s friend, Natalia, won in the girls’ black belt 12-13 year old division. Michael was glad girls and boys did not spar each other, because he and Natalia are pretty evenly matched. They were both sparring at the same time, so they didn’t get to cheer each other on. It was pretty exciting that all 3 black belts from the White Bear Lake school took first place in their divisions!

I’m looking forward to watching Michael in future tournaments! Now that he has found his confidence, I’m sure there will be more!


Spotlight Dance Cup 2017

Our final regional competition of the 2017 season, was Spotlight Dance Cup. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did last year. As far as the competition itself went, it was fine. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that made it less enjoyable for me, but it wasn’t my favorite. Maybe I was just tired, due to going from the competition to my brother’s wedding, and then back to the competition the next day … I don’t know.

I certainly don’t love the Roy Wilkins Auditorium as a venue for competitions. It makes for an expensive weekend, especially for those families that had dancers who competed multiple days, which we did. It adds up quick.! There are parking fees and food costs just to name a couple (we paid $14 for a small order of fries and 2 beverages, and later, $4.75 for a bottle of water).

On top of those costs associated with the venue, the program book was $15, a cost higher than at other competitions. It was smaller than most, which is not a big deal, but there was only one page to write special awards and their top recognition awards. It was annoying to have to keep going through the program to write everything down.  In general though, each award session went too fast to catch it all any way.

Things I enjoyed about Spotlight

  • They had a dance off which was fun to watch. Dancers were taught a short routine, and then they performed it several times, competing for a place in the final round.
  • There was great merchandise for sale. My daughter got a pair of shorts.
  • Phil, the Show Director, was really fun. He was very positive, and had a lot of energy.
  • There must have been microphones on the stage, because you could really hear the tap dancers. I like when you can hear all their sounds!
  • The program listed the choreographers for each routine. I liked that, because I often try to guess who choreographed routines. It was sort of like using the answers at the end of a math book to see if you were right. 😉

Other Commentary 

  • In my program, I wrote a note saying, “What’s with the angled wings? Dancers kept running into them.” I saw dancers in groups of all sizes tripping up in, and struggling to get past the wings when they need to switch lines backstage. I would imagine that it could also make entrances a struggle when they need to come onstage in a straight line (especially for younger dancers who may not have fully developed spacial awareness, which would help them know to turn their bodies as they got to the stage entrance).

A few of the hip hop dancers from my daughter’s team.

  • Instead of having all of one style of dance at a time, the styles were all mixed together throughout the day. I have mixed opinions about this. On one hand, I wonder if it makes it easier, or harder for judges to have to keep switching gears while scoring. On the other hand, audience members weren’t watching the same style of dance over and over. This can be good or annoying, depending on the person. I personally like when similar styles are grouped together.
  • There seemed to be computer issues several times, causing delays in the competition.

There were many of the same groups we saw the rest of the season. The routines were amazing every time! We did see a few new groups. That’s always refreshing.

The judging at this competition can be a little confusing. Instead of Platinum, High Gold, Gold, and Silver, this competition used a different ranking system. At Spotlight, Diamond is the highest score a group can get, Ruby is the second highest, then Emerald, then Sapphire. What makes it really confusing (I heard several parents in the audience trying to figure it out), was that they used the same ranking system for routines (vs 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on). So, a dance that scored in the highest range of points could get a Diamond, but then get an Emerald for their overall ranking (meaning they got 3rd place). Many routines, including several of ours, got Ruby or Diamond for their score, but didn’t place at all. I heard many audience members who were very frustrated not knowing what was going on during awards.

Our dancers did well overall. Most routines scored Ruby or Diamond, some even placed in the overalls. We got some special recognition awards for clean routines, choreography, Best in Musical Theater, and more.

After this competition, we looked forward to recitals and Nationals coming up…. Now, we are at the beginning of a new season. With my daughter doing 8 routines this year, it is sure to be extra busy, but also fun!

Protein Balls recipe – 1st attempt

Tonight, I made protein balls for the first time. I’m trying to eat less junk food, but I have an insatiable sweet tooth.

I have been intending on making protein balls for at least a year or so, when a friend of mine gave me some that she had made. I’ve been craving sweets too often lately, and finally decided these would be a good way to get the sweet treat I’m craving, but also give me more protein.

Here’s the recipe I used (taken from the trainers at Lifetime Fitness, and given my own twist). This is for a double batch (approximately 48 protein balls).

2 cups dry oatmeal (a tiny bit more if the mixture is too sticky)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey
2 scoops Chocolate Whey Protein Powder from Lifetime
1 scoop Mocha Life Greens from Lifetime
a little less than 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

They are simple to make. Mix all the ingredients together, and roll them into balls. I put them into two containers. One for the refrigerator (they can last about a week in the fridge), and one batch for the freezer. Update: I have read that these can be left unrefrigerated, but they are awfully sticky. Putting them in the fridge helped them solidify a little easier, which also makes them easier to eat.

For the first time making them, I should not have made a double batch. They are good, but I do know what I would do differently.

  • Next time, I will use a different ratio of peanut butter to almond butter. If I were to do a double batch again, I’d use 1 1/2 cups peanut butter to 1/2 cup almond butter. I think I will also try it with crunchy peanut butter for a little more texture.
  • I also saw a suggestion to add shredded coconut. I think I will try that.
  • When I bought the mini chocolate chips, I meant to buy dark chocolate. Instead, I bought semi-sweet. To make them a little healthier, I will use dark chocolate chips next time.
  • I would not use quite as much of the Greens powder. I’m not sure if I just didn’t quite mix it well enough, but the flavor was a bit over-powering in the sample I tasted. Update: the next day, the flavor of the Greens isn’t quite so overpowering, but I can still taste it. I will use less than a scoop in the future.

Looking forward to having these treats post-workout, or when I’m craving something sweet!

Tough Mudder 2017

Yesterday, my husband and I, along with 6 other friends, completed the Tough Mudder. If you aren’t familiar with this event, it’s a 10+ mile muddy, wet, and very challenging obstacle course. If you don’t like mud, getting dirty, getting wet, or having wet feet, this is NOT the event for you!

The event was held at the Wild Wings Gun Club in Hugo, MN. We were glad it was so close to our house. Parking at the event was $20, so everyone met here, and we took 2 vehicles to bring everyone there. Afterwards, our team came over for pulled pork, baked beans with bacon, and some good old-fashioned reliving the event we had just completed together.

In preparation for the event, I was working out at the gym, focusing on upper body, and core strength. On the playground at preschool, I had been practicing crossing the monkeybars. The first day of school, I couldn’t do any. Last week, I was able to cross five. I was feeling very encouraged by this! My legs have gotten quite strong over the past year, so I didn’t worry too much about those. I just added some weight to my squats (sometimes using kettlebells, sometimes using hand weights). A few weeks’ back, I messed up my back, so I had to take the most critical time of training to deal with that. 😦  It was a good thing I took that time though, because it held up great through the entire event! I was really nervous it wouldn’t. Thank you to chiropractor, Dr. John Tomlinson for helping get it back on track!

Laura and I after Tough Mudder. We were the only two women on our team.

It was a super hot day. Temps were over 90, with very little cloud cover. There was no amount of training that I could have done or not done to prepare me for the heat. We were all sweating and stinky before we even started. At the first obstacle, they told us weather conditions were red, so they were recommending people not run, and drink plenty at the water stops.

After parking, we walked about a mile to the check-in location. Then, we dropped our bag in the bag drop area, and headed for the queue at the starting gate. Our assigned start time was 11:00. It was about 11:15 when they let the group for the Tough Mudder Half go. We probably got to head for the actual starting gate around 11:30. There, we waited more, and probably around 12, got to actually get started.

We jogged the first 1/2 – 3/4 mile, before some of us started to walk. We had well over 10 miles ahead of us, why expend all that energy early on? We always made sure at least one person stayed with the person at the back. Sometimes that was me, sometimes Dan, Tim, or Jason. No matter who it was, no one was left behind. My goal was not to get it done fast, just to finish it.

We had to carry this wood as a group. It was heavy! Due to a miscommunication at the end, it was even more difficult for the couple of teammates who carried it all the way to the end.

The first obstacle we came to was called Kiss of Mud 2.0 . You can’t see me in the video, but you can watch as my husband crawls through the mud, under barbed wire. Teammate Charlie caught this video. I was to the right of him, so you catch me periodically. It wasn’t too bad. On another obstacle that started out in a similar way, I did get poked in the butt by barbed wire near the end. I thought I was all the way at the end, but I wasn’t quite done yet. Oops.

Post-Mudder selfie.

As the event went on, there were walls to climb over, mud to crawl through, pipes to climb up, wood to carry, etc. Most of the terrain was hilly, and uneven. I was definitely not prepared for that. It made for some very sore muscles, even with us walking most of the course.

The easiest obstacles for me tended to be the climbing ones. I guess my years of rock climbing paid off (even if I’m not very strong any more).  The hardest obstacle for me personally, was called Everest 2.0. This was a steep halfpipe, with a rounded top. Apparently, the trick is to use speed to run up as fast as you can. People at the top help each other, but they say not to aim for the hands. This obstacle was at the half way point for us. For whatever reason, I felt like I was completely out of gas. I struggled to muster up the energy to get enough speed to make it to the top. After 3 tries (plus one where I started to run, and started laughing at something someone said, so bailed), I was ready to admit defeat. I was frustrated and exhausted. I hadn’t eaten in several hours, and had long since burned through my breakfast. I decided to try one more time. This time, by a miracle, Chris, one of my teammates, caught my hand. Matt, another team mate jumped next to him to grab my other one. Charlie, our team captain, was trying to grab my leg. I didn’t have the strength to even swing it over… after hanging for what seemed like an eternity, I mustered the strength to swing it over, where he grabbed it, and they all pulled me over.

Luckily, I found a second wind after that. I managed to make it through all the rest of the obstacles. There were 3 obstacles I did not complete…. two had to do with going through electric wires. I got zapped pretty bad in high school, and didn’t want to relive that experience, so I skipped those two. The third obstacle I did not complete, was called Kong. It was a Legionaires-only obstacle. That means that only people who had completed the Tough Mudder  at least once could do that obstacle. Since it was my first time, I couldn’t try it. That was ok by me, because I knew I would fail. The obstacle before that one had monkey bars, etc. I was very disappointed in myself that I only made it across two monkey bars before I fell in the water. I was hoping to make it at least halfway across. Oh well, maybe next year.

Didn’t realize how banged up my knees were, until after my shower.

Four hours or so later, we finished the Tough Mudder. We were hot, sweaty, sore, and utterly exhausted! At the same time, it was thrilling to know that we had done it. We all had some battle wounds – cuts, bruises, scrapes, and lots of sunburn (despite putting plenty of sunblock on before hand). Some of us struggled with muscle cramps during the event, but it was all worth it!!

I now know how to train differently. I need to make sure I have a bigger breakfast that day, to make sure I pre-hydrate, and do some practice run/walks on hilly terrain. I will continue to work on being able to do things like pull ups, rings, monkey bars, and climbing walls. I will likely also go to a “Ninja Gym” to practice doing things like climbing ropes, and running up walls. I will be better prepared to not only complete obstacles, but also to be a better teammate, more capable of helping others over the obstacles.

I loved that this was such a team-focused event. We all worked together, and we made it! I am looking forward to doing the Tough Mudder again in the future!




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