Polar Plunge 2016

Next weekend, I’ll be taking the Plunge – again! I’ll be participating for the first time in White Bear Lake’s Polar Plunge.

045Two years ago, I jumped into Lake Calhoun to help raise money for the Special Olympics of Minnesota. We have a small team going this year… I guess we scared away the rest with our bitter cold day last time! It WAS dang cold, and if I wasn’t half crazy, I wouldn’t do it again.

 

Fortunately, (or unfortunately), I AM half crazy, and have a great cause for jumping this year again. I am assisting a very sweet young woman, Lizzy, at Lake Area Dance Center again this year. She is taking a Teen Lyrical class, and I get to work with her! Lizzy is also a multiple sport Special Olympian. When she’s not dancing (or jamming to music), she’s bowling, playing basket ball, and playing floor  hockey with her Special Olympics teams. She also does track and field in the spring, and bocce ball! She is one busy lady!

Here we are at the beginning of the dance season... Elke (a friend), me, Lexie (one of the teachers), and Lizzy.

Here we are at the beginning of the dance season… Elke (a friend), me, Lexie (one of the teachers), and Lizzy.

It is in her honor that I am jumping to raise money for such a great cause. Please consider donating to help me reach my goal of $500! You can donate here. Thank you!

2015 Was a Great Year

All the spouses and friends who came along on SQL Cruise.

All the spouses and friends who came along on SQL Cruise.

At the end of the year, we often reflect back on the year gone by, and dream about what the new year will hold. Overall,2015 was pretty great! We went on a few vacations, participated in new adventures, and made new friends. Here are some of the highlights of the year:

SQL Cruise

My mojito tasting partners on the cruise!

My mojito tasting partners!

In January, Jason and I went on SQL Cruise. We took a Norwegian Cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau, Bahamas. During our days at sea, Jason was in class, learning new things about SQL, while I sat on the deck reading in the sun, or “tasting” mojitos with a few of the other wives. We got to spend the week with old friends, and made some new ones.

At a beach side cafe on St. Maarten with Jason. So beautiful!

At a beach side cafe on St. Maarten with my husband, Jason. So beautiful!

My favorite day of the cruise was our day in St. Maarten. I’m pretty sure it’s the most beautiful place I have EVER visited! I did, however, learn that the “nudists” aren’t always as well hidden as I might have expected.

 

WBL Lions’ Club Show – Peter’s Pants

Here are all the Lost Children from the Lions Club Show.

Here are all the Lost Children from the Lions Club Show.

Last year was my first time being a part of the White Bear Lake Lion’s Club Annual Show. The title last year was “Peter’s Pants” (loosely based on “Peter Pan”). Some of my closest friends and their families have been involved with the Lion’s Club’s largest annual fundraiser for years. I have been wanting to be a part of it for many years, and finally made it work! My role was as one of the Lost Children. It was a very fun role with lots of singing and dancing. I made some great new friends being part of this show, and got to spend time with many old friends I don’t get to see very often.

Grace and a few of her Teen Company team mates dancing in the Lions Club Show.

Grace and a few of her Teen Company team mates dancing in the Lions Club Show.

I also got to watch Grace dance in the show with the Lake Area Dance Center dancers for her 2nd year. This time though, I got to watch from backstage.

 

Grace in her solo costume at StarQuest.

Grace in her solo costume at Hall Of Fame.

Grace’s 1st solo – Billie Jean

Grace did her first ever solo last year! She did a tap solo to the Vitamin String Quartet’s version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. It was so amazing to watch her perform all on her own in a group of top competitors in tap! She did very well. While she did not place in any of the competitions, she got a platinum score at two competitions, and high golds at the rest. Doing a solo really helped Grace grow as a tap dancer too. It was a great experience for her.

Participating in my first recital for LADC

Here we were, dancing in the recital!

Here we were, dancing in the recital!

I have been taking the adult tap classes at Lake Area Dance Center for about four years. This past year, we finally participated in the recital! It was both nerve-wracking and exciting! It had been several years since I had been in a recital… I don’t know that I’ll ever not get nervous! I had a lot of fun dancing in the recital with teacher, Miss Maria, and several friends (most of whom were also in the Lion’s Club Show). We danced to Lady Madonna, by the Beatles. In the same shows I danced in, I also got to watch my son dance in his first tap dance, and perform his 3rd hip hop dance. :-)

Being asked to teach summer school

I was asked to co-teach summer school this past year in our district’s Kindergarten Readiness Preschool  (KRP) program. I taught at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School. KRP is a 4 day program, to which children are bused each day. They ate breakfast, and we had preschool. We had a playground that we got to go on every day (something I miss at my site). It was a lot of fun to teach in a new setting with a teacher I have not yet had the opportunity to teach with. I am hoping to have this opportunity again next summer.

Enjoying the view at Lake Vermillion.

Enjoying the view at Lake Vermillion.

Vermillion

We made our annual trip to Lake Vermillion to Jason’s family’s home on the lake. It’s always a fun long weekend with our family, as well as the in-laws, and all the cousins.

We spent our time playing games (both board games, and card games), fishing, hanging out by the fire, jet skiing, swimming, sitting in the sauna, etc.

The kids spent most of the days catching crayfish, swimming, playing games, and enjoying their time together. At night, when they were not hanging out at the fire, or playing a competitive game of SkipBo, they would play flashlight tag…

 

20 Year High School Reunion

It’s hard to believe, but yes, it’s been 20 years since I graduated high school. We had our 20 year reunion this past summer. I really enjoyed catching up with people I haven’t seen in years. I also got to see many friends I still see on a regular basis, and/or that I keep in touch with via facebook.

Yellowstone

Our family at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

Our family at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

I’ve written quite a bit about our Yellowstone adventure this past summer. You can read some of the highlights here. We went through South Dakota’s Custer State Park, to Devil’s tower, then on to Yellowstone. We had a great trip, despite having all 5 kids packed into an SUV for hours on end!

 

Michael competing, so much improvement! 1st place in both divisions (Fall). Up to Advanced Brown Belt

174I have really enjoyed watching my son, Michael, compete in karate this year. His first tournament of this past year, he took first place in both form and sparring. It was awesome! He also got his Advanced Brown Belt this fall. Next up, black belt – quite the accomplishment!

 

Grace’s first high school musical

Grace was in her first high school musical, Nice Work, If You Can Get It. She played the role of a flapper girl. She discovered that she loves theater as much as she loves dance! I have always known musical theater would be her thing! The show was a lot of fun. The theater did an incredible job putting it on!096

 

Chosen to play the bride in the Lion’s Club Show – loosely based on Tony & Tina’s wedding

Starting tomorrow, we begin rehearsing for this year’s Lion’s Club Show. It is called Ole and Lena’s Wedding. It is loosely based on the show Tony and Tina’s Wedding. I am playing Lena (the bride)! YIKES!!! I’m both nervous and excited, but mostly, I feel completely honored to have been chosen for the role!

It’s going to be a great show. You won’t regret it if you come check it out! The show will be March 3-5. Follow the link above for ticket information.

 

2016 is starting out with a busy rehearsal schedule, followed by show weekend, then competition season, then, who knows… what I do know, is I plan to have just as great a year!

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 37,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

My Grace, in her flapper costume. Photo by Patrick Timmons (Cookie McGee in the show).

Grace, in her flapper costume. Photo by Patrick Timmons (Cookie McGee in the show).

My daughter is in her very first high school musical, Nice Work, If You Can Get It. This past weekend was opening weekend. I went twice. It was a great show!

I didn’t realize that White Bear Lake’s Theater Department was well known for being so incredible! Several people (from other districts) have told me that was the case – recognition well deserved!

The casting, costumes, choreography, singing, live music, set, effects… all fantastic! The roles were perfectly cast!

Everyone involved worked so hard. The cast alone was practicing every day after school from about 3:30-anywhere from 9-10:30 at night. I can’t imagine all the hours the directors, crew, costume moms, music directors, set construction crew, etc. put in on top of that!

Here is a group shot, taken by Kathy Burnham.

Here is a group shot, taken by Kathy Burnham.

I went to both shows on Saturday, and heard several comments that are a huge congratulations to everyone involved! Here are some of the things I heard: “The costumes are fantastic!” “Where did they get those great costumes?” “How did they find so many kids who could dance?” “I can’t believe these are high school kids.” “They make it look so fun!” “Great singing!” “Wow, all the colors really pop off the stage!”

What impressed me about the show (on top of all that), was that even when things went less than perfect, the cast and crew continued on without a hitch.

Nice Work If You Can Get It is a prohibition era, boy meets girl comedy. There is a lot of singing and dancing with bootleggers, flappers, and a clueless pretty boy. It is a hilarious show, and SO MUCH FUN!! I am looking forward to seeing it one more time before it closes. I’d recommend you do the same.

Another fun shot of the cast taken by Kathy Burnham.

Another fun shot of the cast taken by Kathy Burnham.

There are still three shows left: Thursday, 11/19; Friday 11/20 and Saturday 11/21. All shows are at 7 PM. You can purchase tickets at the following link: https://apps.vendini.com.

 

Side note:

088

This was probably my favorite of the headpieces I made. This one was for my daughters flapper costume.

While I was not as involved as I would have liked to have been (due to lack of time) in this production, I did get to help with headpieces. I had a lot of fun being creative with the miscellaneous supplies that were offered to us! The moms were pretty great too. That was definitely something I would do again!

Our Western Adventure – Cowboy Dinner

Some of the kids and I on the semi-covered wagon, heading out to the Cowboy Cookout.

Some of the kids and I on the semi-covered wagon, heading out to the Cowboy Cookout.

Our last evening in Yellowstone, we went to the Cowboy Cookout.

There were two options available; we could either ride horses to the cookout, or take a wagon ride. A couple of the kids didn’t want to do the horseback rides, so we went on the wagon ride. It was a lot of fun!

We got there plenty early to get checked in, go to the bathroom, etc. This was a good idea, since the line was quite long for the bathrooms. Then, we waited while they got all the horses hooked up, etc. One of the wranglers gave us some important info (such as “DON’T RUN!! It attracts bears”) that we needed to know before heading out. Then, they told us which wagons to go to, and we were off for a 25 minute or so wagon ride out to the cookout site.

Our fantastic story-teller of a wrangler.

Our fantastic story-teller of a wrangler.

Our wrangler was awesome! The whole way to the cookout, he entertained us/gave us a history lesson us with the story of Truman Everts, a man who was stranded in the park for 37 days, before Yellowstone was a National Park, or was fully explored. He got about halfway through the story on the way there, and finished on the way back. He was a great story-teller. So great, that after dinner on the cookout, he was telling “cowboy stories” around the campfire until it was time to go back.

The cookout food was delicious! It was a buffet with steak and all sorts of side dishes. My favorite was the apple cobbler. YUM! After a week of eating sandwiches for lunch every day, it was a welcome meal, and oh, so good! There were several choices of pop, lemonade, and “cowboy coffee.” The coffee was made over the campfire. Not sure how they did it, or what was different, but it was my first real coffee all week, and it was good!

I love that Grace is laughing so hard at this cowboy story!

I love that Grace is laughing so hard at this cowboy story!

During dinner, there was a man and woman playing guitar, singing cowboy songs. After dinner, the entertainment moved around the huge fire pit, for more songs, and the cowboy stories I referred to earlier.

Overall, this was a really fun time. The whole family enjoyed it. I would definitely go again, though, next time, I want to do the horseback ride!

Side note

On the way to the cookout, we drove up Mt. Washburn. The road going up was treacherous. I was glad I wasn’t driving. I’m sure Jason wished I was! Despite the extremely poor road going up, it was a gorgeous view at the top. I’d say it was worth it!

The petrified tree

The petrified tree

We also stopped to see the petrified tree. It was cool to see, only because we had never seen one before. Other than that, it was kind of sad. It was fenced off so people wouldn’t steal parts of it…

AMAZING!!

On the way back to our campsite, we saw the most amazing double rainbow any of us had ever seen. The entire sky was purple. The rainbow made a complete arc across the sky from end to end, with the brightest, most amazing colors ever! I kind of understand where the guy in that famous internet video was coming from… I think we all sounded about the same. It was a perfect way to end our awesome Yellowstone vacation!

This picture does not do the beautiful rainbow justice, but it gives an idea.

This picture does not do the beautiful rainbow justice, but it gives an idea.

Our Western Adventure – Boiling River

1645On our second to last day in Yellowstone, we went to the Boiling River. It was one of the favorites for almost everyone.

What makes the Boiling River swimming area special, is that it’s an area where the Mammoth Hot Springs empty into the Gardner River. Temperatures fluctuate from feeling icy cold, to burning hot. There are places you can stand where one leg feels super hot, while the other is cold. It’s definitely a neat experience!

Other features include a couple of small waterfalls (but they are too hot to go under), and stone sculptures. People created these small sculptures in the areas where the water is colder, the current flows faster, and/or, on the other side of the river. When you notice them, you can’t help but be impressed by the balancing acts of the stones (and admire the patience of the people who created them)!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

We were eating at this picnic table literally less than 5 minutes before this picture was taken. We had no idea there were any elk around!

Side Note: We had hoped to be able to spend some time in Mammoth, but time just didn’t allow. It’s definitely on our “must see” list for next time. What we could see from the road while driving through, looked pretty cool. We stopped on the way to the river to have a picnic dinner just outside the Mammoth Hotel. No more than about 3 minutes after we got up to throw our trash away, a few elk came (seemingly out of nowhere) and took over the area we had just been in. After we left our picnic, we headed out to do some swimming.

When we got to the parking area, it was full. We had to park in an overflow lot across the street. When we walked across to begin the hike down to the river, there were a couple of elk next to the road/driveway in a grassy area. The female that was closest to the parking lot seemed a bit agitated, and kept bellowing (or whatever you call an elk’s sound). I was wearing a red shirt. After an experience I had as a kid, when I was chased by a bull while wearing a red jumper, I was feeling a bit nervous. I was sure she was yelling at me. I walked very slowly by her, trying to give her as much space as I could.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

Part of the trail leading to the swimming area.

To get to the swimming area, it is anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 a mile hike down a path. It was a nice walk, and well worth it in the end. That being said, you never know what you might encounter…. Jason and most of the kids had gone ahead. Michael came back to change, since there was no port-a-potty or other area to change down by the river. This would have been helpful to know before we started walking down there… Michael and I saw a small snake cross our path as we walked.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

This guy decided to block the main entrance to the river.

For some reason, I ended up getting to the river last. Four of the kids were already swimming, while Jason and Nikolai were “watching our stuff.” There were quite a few people there! As I was getting to the final part of the path that went to the water, I watched an elk cross the river, and stand directly between me and where everyone else was at. I tried to wait him out, but he was enjoying some tasty grass… I decided to back track, and walk in the water to where everyone was at. That was tricky, but I did make it.

I would recommend for anyone planning on swimming in the Boiling River to wear some sort of strap on sandals or water socks. The rocks are slippery, and some are rather large. It can be tricky to maneuver around in the water, especially when you are looking for the perfect spot to sit or swim. I tried the first time bare-foot. I learned my lesson, and wore my sandals when I went back in (after setting my bag down on the shore). Jason was wearing flip flops, and when one caught on a rock and popped up, he slipped. It could have been a disaster!

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

The water in the warm half of the Boiling River is not very deep.

There were 2-3 areas that almost seemed like the rocks were placed just so, creating man-made hot tubs (I’m guessing people put the rocks that way to create sitting areas). Temps in these areas were perfect for basking. Unfortunately, those areas were pretty full of families who got there long before us.

Our kids had a great time swimming, testing the different areas, and skipping rocks across the river (which isn’t very wide). We would definitely come back the next time we come to Yellowstone.

Twin Cities Tap Festival – 2015

Grace and I attended the first ever Twin Cities Tap Festival last weekend. What a cool experience!

The festival had a lot to offer. On Thursday night, there was a Student Showcase. We didn’t go, but after seeing who all the performers were, we would have loved it.

078Master classes were offered by several different instructors at 3 different levels. Grace attended one intermediate class, taught by Bruce DeMorrow. We have seen him at competitions, but have never gotten to see him dance, let alone take a class from him. Grace really enjoyed his class! In addition to the dance routine they learned, she especially had fun doing tap improv, something she rarely has an opportunity to do. She said their instructions were to imagine they were having a conversation with another person, using only their feet to communicate. Fun!

Grace wanted to take more classes, but at $30/class, plus a $25 registration fee, just after homecoming, I was kind of tapped out (no pun intended). I thought the price of the classes was just about right, though it would have been great if they offered bundle pricing for students wishing to take multiple classes. This year, if you registered before August 1st, you would pay only for the classes. Next year, we will definitely register before the cut off date; that’s one more class she could have taken (or I could have taken one with her).

Grace and teammate Paige, who also took class with Bruce DeMorrow.

Grace and teammate Paige, who also took class with Bruce DeMorrow.

After the Master Class, was the Masters Concert. There were solo and group performances by some amazing tappers from both Minnesota, and around the world. The show started out with Nico Rubio, bringing some humor into his tapping. He had some crazy movements with his legs and feet, and made incredible sounds!

We were impressed with all the soloists at how many different sounds they were able to make, with what looked like very little movement of their feet at all! Many of the soloists performed improv, accompanied by live music. There were dances that demonstrated how feet can be used as instruments. The Kaleena Miller Dance group literally played their music with their feet. Like a choir all singing melodies and harmonies, several parts coming together to make beautiful music, so were the four performers with their feet. Each person had their part in the music, sometimes it was the melody, sometimes it was the harmony, but together, they created a song (and dance).

One thing that really struck me as amazing, was the dynamics these experts were able to create with their feet. As someone who takes tap, I can say that is not an easy feat. When we tap in class, there is one volume. We are often so focused on getting the right steps, that making some of them louder, and some softer, is not even in the back of our minds. Lisa La Touche really showed some dynamics in her performance (as did others)

076The fourth performance of the show was by Elite Tap Feet. This was a group that Grace auditioned for back in May, but did not get selected for. Of the 50 or so who auditioned, only about 15 were chosen. One of them was Grace’s first “big sister” at Lake Area Dance Center, Madelyn Lee. Madelyn is currently one of the studio’s youngest dance teachers and choreographers, and is an all-around wonderful person. We were so proud of her for being part of this group!! What I really enjoyed about the Elite Tap Feet performance was the energy level this group of teens had. They all looked like they were really enjoying themselves on stage. I also appreciated that none of the dancers had on “competition makeup” or fake eyelashes. It was quite refreshing to them looking much more natural than we normally do when we see them at competitions.

The last performance of the night, was by Sam Weber. He started out with some improv, then went into another full performance of a self-choreographed piece. He was talented, and beautiful (yes, I said that about a man). He was graceful, and he made every step look simple, even though I know it was extremely difficult. Sam’s performance had to have been at least 4-5 minutes (if not longer). How he kept up his stamina, without looking even a bit winded, is beyond me. I guess that’s why he’s the Master!?!

Most of the event took place at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It’s a really cool theater, with an “old” appearance. This is the second dance event we have attended at this theater, and we have enjoyed both of them. The classes were mostly held at the Marriott Hotel just around the corner.

We will definitely attend the Twin Cities Tap Festival again! Next year, we will register further in advance, so we can beat the registration fee. I will likely also take classes. It sounded like way too much fun not to (even if my daughter is embarrassed that her mom is in the class). Grace plans on auditioning again for Elite Tap Feet, especially now that she has one under her belt. We will also attend the Master Concert again, and will likely attend the Student Showcase as well.

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