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Thursday, February 27, 2014

DI tournamemt

Oh my goodness! Our team did a phenomenal job and claimed first place out of 18 teams at the Regional Competition! I was so proud of these kids, and so thankful for all the parents who volunteered to assist that day. It was a crazy whirlwind of a day, but they had such a great time. 

Here are some glimpses of the day:

This picture was taken immediately after their performance. The blue ribbons in this picture are not official DI ribbons since the award ceremony had not occurred yet. I like to give my team blue ribbons during a morning pep talk the day of competition, and just let them know how I think they are already winners no matter what the judges decide. They've grown SO much this year and I wanted them to feel proud of their accomplishments. They learned so much and overcame so many obstacles this year, and I like giving them a ribbon to wear under their costume- it gives them a mental/emotional high that carries over to their performance. They LOVED wearing these around all day. (Many thanks to the Peek family for generously purchasing the medals this year!)

I didn't really get  many pictures of the day, since I was often away from the team either registering, collecting scores, or observing other teams perform. When we were together, I was usually either training them for their event or taking them to watch other performances and discuss strategy. 

The morning was spent making final adjustments to their sets and props. They decided to fold dozens of origami bugs and frogs to add to their backdrop, and add details to their set pieces. They spent the morning glueing, folding, and taping together in the cafeteria while we waited for our performance time. 

But here's one shot of the team getting ready for their performance. Sarah was so excited to paint Eliza's face as a cat!

This is the dance party in the evening. While we wait for final scores to be  compiled in the score room, there is always a DJ playing fun music in the gym. The kids had a wonderful time dancing and being silly together. And I totally joined the fun on the gym floor. 

In truth, we didn't hope to win first place, we just hoped to be good enough to advance to the state level. We were determined to give it our best shot and at  least get a medal. 

We had observed a couple of great performances from other teams and were very impressed with some of their creations. None of the other teams really took us seriously before our performance, since our team isn't funded by a school or business. The conversations I had with other coaches earlier were all painted with slightly patronizing voices and pity. When they heard that we meet only once each week instead of 3-4 days, they brushed us off as amateurs not worth worrying about. They didn't know how dedicated these kids are!

Usually in DI competitions, coaches make it a point to observe the performances of teams they think will win. They want to glean little tips from what other teams do well, and scope out the competition. Many teams had over 100 spectators to worry about. When we went onstage, there was only one observer that wasn't an immediate family member. At first I was disappointed that I wasn't being considered a threat to the other coaches, but then I was relieved because my students wouldn't have to feel distracted with a large audience. 

Our story is the classic story of an unknown, underfunded underdog team claiming victory over sponsored, experienced winners. 

This is the view I had when they were announced as the winners. Just look at their excited faces! They couldn't stop jumping and squealing, and they all rushed back to me for a team hug. Our co-coach, Rebekka, was with a date that night. She was sitting in the bleachers with him, but she ran down to join us and share the moment of excitement. 

Our team picture afterwards, with the official blue ribbons and plaque. 

Now we are  headed to the State Competition! Our team meetings have doubled, and they are busy improving their creations for the competition. I wish I could share more details about their performance, but we are keeping things under wraps until after the competition. I will say that the team is learning a host of new skills to prepare. And my kids have started taking a weekly Electronics course so they can learn to build their own motors. They had some great ideas to put in place before the next competition and -boy!- are they eager to build it all. 

We really love this program, and I'm so thankful to be their coach! It's been such a great family adventure!

Friday, February 21, 2014

DI update

It's Friday! Huzzah! We made it through the week!

Today we are finishing our last-minute preparations for tomorrow's DI tournament: filling out paperwork, calculating team expenses, packing all the backdrops and props into vehicles, going through costumes one more time to double-check everything.

It's been so rewarding to watch these kids grow so much this year. I've been so impressed with their skills as I've watched them sew costumes, write scripts, choreograph dances, build towers and bridges, work together, and overcome obstacles.

This week was their dress rehearsal for their families. We filled my library with chairs and people, and enjoyed watching the team nail their performance. We celebrated together over delicious refreshments before everyone went home.

This little group is one of the big reasons my blog has been pretty silent lately. I've been just a little bit busy.

But. Tomorrow is the competition. They are well-prepared and I'm quite hopeful that they will be a contender for the state advancements.

Even if they don't advance, I consider this year a success- they have learned SO much and forged strong friendships. They have grown in confidence and capability as they have mastered new talents.

Whether they advance or not, it will be good news for me. If our season ends with this weekend- fantastic! It will be a bit of a relief to have more time to myself again! If they advance to state- fantastic! We'll enjoy the adventure and have another 6 weeks of the DI season.

It's been such an adventure this year, and our kids have really loved it. I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to be their coach and share this journey with them.

I really dislike business trips

Dear Mr. Kingsley-

Oh how I've missed you dreadfully this week! My soul aches in your absence and my heart stretches across the distance, reaching out for yours. I miss your tender embrace, your friendly companionship, your quiet strength in leading our home.

When you come through the door I am going to throw myself into your arms and bury my face in your chest, then I'll hold your face in my hands and kiss every inch of you. It seems as though you've been gone centuries, even though it's only been 5 days.

When you are gone, I cannot sleep at night- my mind refuses to relax without my protector lying next to me. I jolt awake at every sound, wondering if I would be crazy to sleep with the gun next to me.

I decided to let Bella sleep outside, to serve as a deterrent and an alarm if any intruder approached the house. It sounded like the Twilight Bark from 101 Dalmatians....all the dogs in the neighborhood barked all night, as though she needed to catch up on all the nighttime canine gossip. And they did this Every. Single. Night. All. Night. Long.

Instead of bringing her inside, I just wore ear plugs. I hope our neighbors forgive me (but in my defense, everyone else's dogs were barking all night as well). I still slept with the lights on. I would never make a good military wife, with long absences a regular way of life.

All week I've had a poem in my mind. It's one of my favorites and expresses my sentiment so well.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
   The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.

My words always seem to stumble and fail me, so I stole them from John Donne. His insights and analogies are so touching and perfect.

I truly feel as though my spirit is reaching out towards yours, crossing the continent to be with you. I love the imagery of the compass in his poem- and my heart is eager to for you to draw near and return home.

I also love the analogy of the gold being beat thin, stretching to accommodate any distance without breaking. That's how I have viewed our love this week- no distance made your soul feel truly apart from me, even though I longed to hold your hand. I felt your love accompany me throughout each day.

Every day our children ask, "How much longer until Dad comes home?".

I'm happy that your business trip has been successful, yet I'm happier still at the prospect of your homecoming tonight. The hours can't pass by quickly enough and time freezes as I count down to your arrival.

I'm giddy in anticipation. Come home safely, my darling!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Glimpses of The Thinkery and a Hike to see Dinosaur Footprints

I felt like we had been focusing too much on book work and memorization in home school laterly, so we needed to engage our minds a different way.

We needed a fun hands-on day of learning, so I whisked everyone away for a day filled with field trips. Here it is in a nutshell.

The first stop was The Thinkery, the children's science museum in Austin. We have always LOVED science museums and were so eager to explore this one.

This was the neatest musical instrument ever, a water piano. It splashed everywhere and drenched the player, but it was oh so fun! The sound quality was surprisingly clear and resonant. It reminded me of the rich tones of a cello.

Diego loved these water drums and played for ages at this station. Water spouts mounted in the ceiling dropped precisely-aimed droplets to play the drums. 

More water table experiments with redirecting water. 

Joseph enjoyed picking vegetables in the toddler zone, which is themed after a giant garden. 

This was a really fun interactive light display. The colored zones change colors when you touch them. Diego loved this screen. 

Joseph also enjoyed the giant pegboards, like a Lite Bright station. 

Light-themed puzzles for the brain intrigued Matthew and Sarah for quite a bit. 

Matthew took a moment to read stories in the welcoming reading nook. 

I was treated to a gourmet dinner in the farmers' market stand. Matthew and Joseph had such fun 'cooking' all sorts of dishes for me to eat. 

The outdoor playground was filled with nets perfect for climbing. 

There was also an outdoor river where children could play with water and catch several floating plastic toys as they rushed by. 

There was a spot where you could take self portraits and the images would be displayed on a mosaic on the wall. Matthew and I played with this station for a bit. He's pointing to my picture, and to the left of my portrait is Matthew's picture: an upclose portrait of his open mouth. 

Afterwards we played outside for an hour, feeding ducks and enjoying the little lake  next to the museum. 

After a picnic lunch and playground time, we headed home and stopped along the way for a little hike down a cliff to see fossilized dinosaur footprints along a river bottom. This was our first time seeing real fossils in the 'wild'. It was so neat- you could follow the footprints along the riverbed for quite a distance. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed the bit of exertion, even when Diego gave up on the return hike and begged to be carried back to the van. 

I'm so thankful for this aspect of home school life: we get to embark on learning adventures together and create meaningful family memories. I cherish these moments when our children get to explore together!