Grad Party

Earlier this summer, we had Grace’s graduation party. It was a lot of work, but oh so worth it! We were grateful for everyone that came, and had a wonderful time!

We had settled on the date several months before. Grace wanted to wait until after Nationals, so we did it the weekend after. Unfortunately, that meant many of the dance families were unable to come, as they had vacations planned for that time. Another one of the graduating dancers had hers the same day, and we missed being able to go to hers too.

Once we had the date chosen, it was time to create the facebook invite, and later, physical invitations. We used Walgreens to print our invitations to mail out, as well as the photos we printed for photo boards. I had several formatting issues with the website this time around, and was frustrated to find that close to 200 invitations went out with her school’s name cut off in the middle. Of course, I didn’t realize this until after most of them were mailed out. Oh well. We also had issues with some of the photos being cropped by their system, unbeknownst to me.  Walgreens did let us reprint them at no cost to us, I just had to turn in all the ones that were cut off. I have used this site many times in the past with no issues, and probably will continue to, now that I know what to watch for.

Leading up to Grace’s grad party, I spent a lot of time working on her scrapbooks. They were only previously completed up to about age 3, so I had a long ways to go. I decided I would start with her dance years, get as much of those done as I could, get her graduation day done, and then work backwards as much as I had time for. I knew there was no way I could do it all on time, but was ok with doing as much as I could, and calling it good. I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I had hoped, but it was ok.  I knew we’d have photo boards too. While I spent hours picking out photos for those, Grace did all the work of putting the photos on the boards. It was fun to watch people looking at the pictures, scrapbooks, etc.

Food

Deciding on food was tricky. Grace originally wanted her party to be held for a shorter time span, in the morning/early afternoon, and to serve brunch foods. She wanted a coffee bar, too. She had been to a grad party like that the year before, and really liked it.  For various reasons, including other people’s schedules, cost and effort to make all that happen, we settled for 11-4 as the time span. It seemed like it would be too long, but with the number of people we had come, I’m glad we ended up spreading it over most of the day. As it was, I was not able to spend time talking to most of the people here, other than a quick hello.

After realizing we couldn’t quite make her original food plan work, she said,  “How about a taco bar?” I was thrilled, because that would be relatively easy to pull together. Then, she changed her mind to a pasta bar. After talking to a friend who had done that for her daughter’s party, about the logistics, I said no. In the end, we settled on pasta, but not a “build-your-own”. We had all pasta dishes that were pre-mixed. I made spaghetti, a chicken pasta salad, tortellini alfredo, homemade mac and cheese, and we had meatballs with and without sauce. I asked the grandmas who would be willing to help with food, and they all offered to bring a pasta hotdish, or pasta salad. My mother-in-law also brought pickle roll-ups, a staple at our family gatherings. 🙂 Needless to say, we had plenty of food!

We did have coffee, but not where we paid a barista to come make espressos, cappuccinos, etc. That was way to expensive for my budget. We borrowed a large coffee carafe from the White Bear Lake Lions’ Club, ordered flavor syrups, stir sticks, and marshmallows from Amazon, and disposable cups from Costco. We got several flavors of Coffee Mate Creamers, and set up our own coffee bar. It turned out really cute – wish I’d have gotten a picture of it!

Another thing we did a bit different, is that Grace did not want a cake. She didn’t really care for cupcakes either. She asked if we could just have bars. I ordered three trays from Cub Foods. My mother-in-law also brought brownies. Her grandma on her dad’s side had special cookies made at Cub Foods with the theater masks on them, since Grace wants a future in the performing arts. They were so cute! My friend makes amazing Oreo Balls, and Grace had asked if she would be willing to make some of those for the party as well. She wasn’t sure she’d be at the party, since she was about to have a baby, and I felt bad even asking her. That said, Jenny was very willing to make them, and dropped them off a couple days before. Another friend brought chocolate covered strawberries. We had a great spread of desserts!

Set Up

We just built our house this past year, so we didn’t have grass yet. Our driveway was recently put in, so couldn’t have chairs or anything on the driveway. We knew the party would mostly be held in the garage, and decided to have the food in the house due to the heat of the day, and space. We ended up also having some of the pictures, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia inside too.

We borrowed several tables and plenty of chairs from Grace’s dance studio (Lake Area Dance Center). We also borrowed a couple of tables and chairs from a friend of ours. Most of the table covers, centerpieces, etc. came from Party City or Walmart.

Planning Your Own

When planning an event like a grad party, it’s smart to start early. I had good intentions of working on scrapbooks, organizing photos on my computer, etc. over the past year, but life kept me busy, and I was scrambling towards the end. We did pick up supplies over time, so as not to spend so much all at once. I watched for sales, and picked things up as I saw them. Even at the last minute, we ended up spending quite a bit on food, last minute items, plates, etc. Having some of the details such as color scheme (her school doesn’t really have a specific color), food, etc. picked out ahead of time could have helped us watch for sales on things like pasta, table coverings, etc.

Borrow where you can. We saved a lot of money by borrowing tables, chairs, and the coffee pot.

We also reused a few of the decorations from our past graduates. We had more decorations for Grace’s, but are saving the new items we got, for the two future graduates in our house. Getting generic graduation items, and not year or school specific can be a way to save money, so they can be used again if you have multiple children. We did have a couple things that said “Class of 2019”, but most just said “Graduate”, or “Congratulations”.

 

 

 

Have help! Our friend was in town from Michigan. She was amazingly helpful during the entire party. Every time I came to check on the plates of bars or cookies, she would have just refilled them. We had plain meatballs, and meatballs in sauce. As the ones in sauce went, she would move some of the plain over. She monitored the pastas in crock pots, stirring them as needed, etc. Though I was still very busy through the day – giving tours, attempting to chat with people, etc, I would have been much more so, had it not been for all her help. She also helped me the next morning, as I took everything down in the garage.

In the end, we could have done without some of the things we did, because it’s really all about the graduate. As long as they feel loved, and feel special, that’s what really matters. I can say for certain that Grace did! 🙂

Advertisements

Project Repat T-shirt Quilt

I had a quilt made from as many of Grace’s dance and other activities’ shirts as I could find. Sadly, I couldn’t find any of her baseball/softball shirts to add, or her White Bear Choir shirt, and there were a few years of dance that I couldn’t find the shirts for either. I should have done a better job of hanging on to those over the years.

I had seen many of these quilts in the past, and thought they were so cute! As I started pricing them out, I realized they could be VERY expensive! A friend told me about a company called Project Repat. He had ordered more than one of these quilts from there, and had been very happy with them. He also told me that if I signed  up for their emails, they often have 40% off coupon codes you could use, which made it very affordable.

With Project Repat, you don’t get cute borders on your quilt, or any other embellishments. It’s just the squares, cut from your shirts, sewn together, with a fleece background. This was fine with me, because it was definitely something I wouldn’t be able to do, and I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for it. This past year of dance was very expensive, as was the grad party, and everything else that goes with Senior Year.

How-to

Ordering was easy. From the website, I just had to pick the size of the blanket, the size of the squares, and choose a color of fleece for the back. I chose a Full-sized blanket (30 squares).

Then, they send you directions. Basically, you just take the shirts, cut them along the seams on the sides, and send in the 1/2 of each shirt you want on the quilt. The shipping for the shirts is not included, but shipping for them to send the blanket to you is. I think it cost me close to $20 to ship all the shirts in.

I ordered it, and set to work to find all the shirts. I was a few short, so I spent some time searching Goodwill, and asking friends to help me find a Choir shirt. In the end, I included the backs of some of the shirts with all the names of all the dancers from that year. A couple of the shirts were tank tops. Apparently, two of them were too small for the 12″ squares. They emailed me a bill for $10 because they had to add fabric to the backs of those to fit the quilt. I had saved so much with the 40% off coupon, I didn’t mind paying that amount.

Once I sent them in, it was only about 2 weeks before I got the quilt back. I was impressed with the speed it came. Grace loved it when she came home, and saw it spread out on her bed! 🙂

What would I change?

After getting it, the quilt was a little shorter than I expected. When they cut the squares, some of the words/graphics were cut off a few of the shirts. I wish I’d have ordered 15″ squares instead of the standard 12″. A border around the blanket would have been cute. I’m not even sure if that was an option, but it is fine the way it is!

Overall, I was very happy with my experience with Project Repat, and the quilt that came and helps us commemorate several part of Grace’s life!

Saying Goodbye Sucks

Recently , we had to put our dog to sleep. It was a REALLY tough day!

I took this picture 2 days before we put him to sleep, not realizing just how sick he really was.

For the past several years, Duke has been suffering from arthritis. It has gotten worse over the past year. In April, I witnessed a day where he couldn’t get up for about 5 minutes. That’s when I brought him in to the vet, and got him put on Carprofen, glucosamine, and fish-oil. It seemed to help for a while. When we’d run out of the Carprofen, and I couldn’t pick it up for a day or two, I could tell he was in pain. It was so sad.

For the past month or so, even on the meds, his arthritis was rapidly getting worse. The weekend before we put him down, I watched him struggling to get up and down the steps to the basement, where his bed and door to his kennel were.

On top of the arthritis, or maybe the cause of it, was the fact that he had Lyme’s Disease 8 years ago when we got him. Every 6-12 months or so, he would have flare ups that have been increasing in frequency over the past couple years. When he would have a flare up, he would get really sick. Occasionally, he would get bladder stones that also made him really sick. He had tumors on several parts of his body. New ones seemed to pop up every couple months… it was time, but it was awful.

This was taken the day we got Duke. He was so skinny.

Duke was almost 12 years old. He was loving and loyal. He didn’t like other dogs very much, but he loved everyone who would take a minute to pet him. It was hard to say goodbye to him. If I thought it was hard for me, it was even harder for my two kids. We got him when their dad and I were getting divorced. Grace was about 9, and Michael was about 5. They loved him from the moment they met him!

The night before we had him put to sleep, we had decided it was time. He was up all night with diarrhea (I literally had to let him out at least once an hour all night long). The morning of, Grace went down to say her goodbyes before school. It broke my heart a little bit to see her crying over him. He just looked up at her, like he knew it was time. She pet him for a few minutes, and then had to go.

Michael wanted to come with to the vet. He wanted to be there for his best buddy when he went to sleep. It was tough, as we both kept crying, trying to comfort each other, but also love up on Duke for the last time. The room they had us in to say goodbye was very comforting. There was a big dog bed on the floor, and a couch with blankets on it. The vet came in and did one last exam. He said Duke’s heart and lungs sounded good, and that he didn’t see any signs of a terminal illness. He mentioned that perhaps he was just really sick, and that with the right medication, we could get him back to normal. THAT WAS THE WORST THING HE COULD HAVE SAID! It tore my heart even a little more to have to stick to my decision. He followed that up with “Well, it really comes down to quality of life, and it’s your decision.” Ugh!!

I knew that if we gave him meds, he might get better. But, in between then and the next 4-6 months when we’d be going through this again, he’d still be in pain. Even with the pain meds and anti-inflammatories, he’d be pacing around the house, because it hurt too much to lay down. I knew we’d still be whimpering in his sleep, because he was hurting. I knew he’d continue to get more and more tumors (fatty tumors or cancer, we’d never have found out). I knew I had to stick with the decision to put him to sleep, but it was not easy!

This picture was taken when he was somewhere between 3 and 4 years old.

It was sad to see him go. He was just sitting between Michael and I. He was panting, and calm. He was enjoying that we were petting him, and that he had gotten to have many treats while we were there. As the vet put the sedative in his IV port, he relaxed. As the other medication went in, his panting slowed down even more, and he just put his head down and went to sleep forever. It was very peaceful, but also so sad.

That night, Michael was crying in his bed. He said he didn’t understand, the vet said Duke was fine. I had to remind him of all the reasons that it wouldn’t have been fair to Duke to keep trying to get him better, only to keep suffering in between getting really sick. I really wish the vet hadn’t said that, especially in front of a 13 year old kid who is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to his best buddy.

Once he started to realize that truth, Michael switched to blaming himself… after they put the IV port in Duke’s leg, they brought him back in to us. They told us to take as long as we wanted, and knock on the door when we were “ready” for them to come give him the medication. Michael paced around the room during that time. He pet Duke, gave him treats, and after 15-20 minutes, he knocked on the door. He said it was his fault, and that he should have waited longer. I told him we could have stayed in there for hours with Duke, and it still wouldn’t have seemed long enough.

We did get an impression of his paw, which sits on Michael’s dresser. I  noticed his leash show up on the dresser one day, and occasionally, it gets moved around, so I know he is still thinking about him. I don’t know if having him come along was the best or worst thing to do, but I wanted to honor his wishes.

Image result for heart with paw printThere are times when I miss Duke that I don’t even realize it. When I was watching Michael get on the bus on the first day of school was one of those days. Usually, Duke would have been right there with me watching him.

When people say pets leave a paw print on our hearts, they are right. Even weeks later, I get sad when I think about our sweet boy. The tears still come sometimes. I will never forget our Duke.

 

 

 

 

One Year to Go

This past weekend, LADC had their annual dance recitals. I will write about those later. While watching the afternoon recital, I started to reflect on the fact that Grace only has one year of competitive dance to go.

tweeted the following, as a summary of how I was feeling. “Watching all the Seniors at the dance recital today got me feeling emotional. Mostly I was thinking about how hard it’s going to be next year, but also, I adore those girls that are graduating!”

This year, Grace has really found a love of performing. I have never seen bigger smiles on her face as she danced. My mom commented at the recital about how much joy she was oozing while she danced. It has been fun watching her improve so much each year! After next year, I will miss the competition scene, even though they tend to get stressful at times. There’s something about being at dance competitions that I just love. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I really enjoy sitting in the audience, watching the dances from all the different studios. I love watching Grace perform, but also all the other dancers from our studio. I have watched so many dancers grow up over the past 7 seasons. When I watch the littles on stage, it’s like watching nieces and nephews dancing. I feel as proud of them when they win, as if they were my own family members.

As I was thinking about my feelings, I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I will still be around the studio as an Adult Tap student. That said, I won’t have those extended amounts of time there, where I will be able to get to know the other dance families. I will miss working at the front desk, and being able to help Maria wherever I can. I will miss being that obnoxious parent that is around every corner with a camera (especially at competitions). I am currently the studio “stalkerazzi”… I enjoy taking pictures not only of Grace and her dance friends, but also of other kids. I enjoy being able to share them with other parents, and our studio owner.

I was thinking about all of this as Miss Maria was honoring the Seniors. Every year, she pulls each of the Seniors and their families to the stage. She honors each one with some thoughts on her experiences with each of them. When she was talking to them, she said she wished she had enjoyed the moments she had with them just a little bit more. She talked about trying to enjoy each of their lasts with them through the year… I’m going to try to remember that next year, as we go through one last after another… last first day of dance (after 14 years), last solo, last competition, last recital, last Nationals… I’m going to try to enjoy each of those “in the moment”, and try not to be sad about them. I’m going to enjoy each conversation I have with each of the dance families, knowing that it won’t be the last time I see many of them…. Most of all, I’m going to try to enjoy every second I get to watch Grace on stage, performing her heart out!

It’s going to be a tough year, but will also be amazing, because it will signal the beginning of many new firsts…

 

 

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!

 

 

 

School Trip

My scrapbook page from our band trip to Chicago, Junior Year of high school. This was just after dinner at Ed Dbeviks.

Tomorrow, my daughter heads out to Chicago with her choir. I’m not sure who’s more excited, her, or me?

While in Chicago, they are going to have some really cool experiences! They are going to see a production of Chicago, going to see The Blue Man Group, and going to the Aquarium. They are also going to Millenium Park – because you can’t go to Chicago as a tourist, and not take pictures in front of the Bean! They are also going to Navy Pier, and a few other locations. Of course, they also are doing some singing while they are there. Instead of a dance master class, like Grace is used to, they are doing a choir master class with a college professor.

She is so excited for her 4 days in the Windy City with her friends, that I’m surprised she’s sleeping at all!

I am excited for her, because I remember my band trips from high school very fondly! Some of my very favorite high school memories were made on our trips to Chicago (Junior Year),  and Toronto (Senior Year). As an adult, I have had the pleasure of visiting Chicago a few times. I saw The Blue Man Group, the parks, etc. and enjoyed them all.

I can’t wait to hear all about her adventures when she gets back!

 

We Adopted Two Kittens!

Anyone who knew me growing up, knows I always had multiple dogs and cats. We showed Samoyeds, and usually had 2 or 3. We also had at least 2 cats most of the time. I could never imagine a house with no animals. For a good part of my adult life, I had no pets. It always seemed like there was something missing.

When Grace was 3 or 4, we got a cat, Snugglebug. Grace loved the cat, but was allergic. The cat also started peeing and pooping in the house when we weren’t home. We realized at that time, that we just weren’t home enough to give the cat the attention it needed and deserved. My mom helped us find another home for her.

About 7 years ago, I got Duke, a black lab mix. We have thoroughly enjoyed having him as part of our family.

Recently, my husband started talking about getting a cat. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. We talked, and decided we wanted a female kitten, preferably with short hair… I started looking around, and found out it’s harder to find kittens to adopt than you would expect. I looked online, and I went to several Petsmart stores, since a friend of mine said she saw kittens at one. I stopped at a local Humane Society, and found no kittens. On a website of a local shelter, they said they have adoption events at Petsmart locations on Saturdays from 11-2. After over a week of searching, we decided to take a chance, and see what they had for animals at the adoption event.

20161231_114216When we first got there, there were several crates lined up with young cats. They were all so cute! As we were looking at them, I jokingly said to my husband, “Can’t we just take them all home?” He looked at me, and said, “Do you want 2?” Again, I thought he was kidding. Again, he wasn’t. There was one female (with long hair), and one handsome male that really grabbed our attention. We ended up with both of them. We named them Luke and Leia, because we are that geeky!

The kittens are from different litters, but are only a day apart in age. They were fostered in the same home, so are siblings for all intents and purposes. The agency that we adopted from was St. Francis of Assissi Animal Rescue of Forest Lake. They are a foster-based shelter. The family that fostered these kittens was there to answer all our questions about them. The foster mom, Tia, obviously loved the kittens. She had had the girl kitten since birth, and got the male a short while later. We are very lucky that they were in such a great home for the first 3-4 months of their lives!

Luke and Leia seem very happy in their new home!

Luke and Leia seem very happy in their new home!

Both kittens are very cuddly, playful, and adapted very well to their new home. They haven’t been at all nervous or shy like the shelter thought they could be. They have explored the house, found favorite places to lay, and They are not afraid of the dog. We are taking our time introducing them, using only short “meet and greets” a few times a day for the next couple days. The female cat seems very interested in him. We’ll see how it goes as they get to spend more and more time together.

I am glad we got two kittens… they entertain each other, and us! With 2 adults, 5 kids (though one spends most of his time away at college), 1 dog, and 2 cats, our house now feels complete! 🙂

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: