Friday, June 30, 2017

Ivory's Adventures as a Gymnast

Ivory has been taking gymnastics since she was six. She is such a short, strong girl, that we thought gymnastics would be perfect for her. And it has been an amazing road for her. I have only blogged about our experience here and there, so today I'm going to try to cover five years. (It's doable.)

We put Ivory in gymnastics at a place called Arete. It is actually quite a good facility. (Robyn even did gymnastics for a few months but didn't have the passion that Ivory had.) Ivory moved up quickly through the small classes. Each time a girl moves up, two things happen: 1) She goes to the gym for more time. i.e. from one day to two, or two days to three. 2) Naturally, it gets more expensive.

Gymnastics is a money sucker, for any parents out there who don't know. There is an annual fee for having your child enrolled. (Small, but always surprising when you are paying monthly and suddenly there is an extra charge.) There is a monthly fee which starts small, but builds until you could be making a car payment instead of watching your child do cartwheels. Then, there is the competition fees. Wow. There is a reason that we avoided those for so long. They are more along the lines of a mortgage payment (or two).

At Arete, Ivory was bopping along, enjoying her time. She even did a little mini competition that she did really well in. They seemed to bump her up to the next level faster than I thought she needed. I decided this was simply because the higher levels cost more, so why not put girls up there? Ivory eventually reached a level where she could compete, but there was no way we could afford it, so Ivory just went to the practices three times a week. We were content, but only to a point.

Because (I did mention the financial leeches, right?) every year, the gym got more expensive. They raised prices EVERY YEAR. Of course, we couldn't compete; we could barely pay the monthly fee. Then one summer, they had this strange parents meeting. I had never been to one before, but I dutifully showed up. It was basically a break down of cost and volunteering. There was a team fee (regardless of whether the girls competed) and then a minimum number of hours parents had to help at meets. (Also regardless of whether their girls competed.) This didn't make sense to me. And I knew our gymnastics time with Arete was coming to a close, which was too bad, because Ivory was really enjoying herself.

I went in to speak with the owners and withdraw my daughter. Not surprisingly, they sang a different tune. I now could  be exempt from the team fee and volunteering hours. But I wasn't fooled. That other shoe was going to drop eventually, and I knew prices were going to go up again the next year. So, I took her out anyway. It was a sad goodbye. We took a couple pictures with her coaches. (This was in August 2015)

(I know Ivory was sad to leave, but two years later, she can't remember the name of these coaches, so it wasn't too hard on her. Her favorite coaches had left the spring before. She does remember Ron's name. He used to call her Iverson at the gym. She still doesn't like me to call her that because it has tender memories for her.)

That meant we were out a gym. I started looking around for a place where Ivory could continue to develop her skills without the excessive price tag. (I know...good luck.) A friend of mine had moved her kids from Arete to High Altitude, so I went to check it out. High Altitude was a tumbling and cheer gym, and they were just starting a gymnastics program. And because Ivory was new, it was back to once or twice a week instead of so much time at the gym. (I was really starting to miss Ives around the house.)

I signed her up for tumbling and gymnastics. Ivory found out two things: 1) She didn't love tramp and tumbling as much. A lot of this was because of coaches. If Ivory doesn't love the coach, she doesn't love the sport. The regular coach was not her favorite. Here she is practicing one day with a sub -- who she also didn't like.

2) She was pretty darn good at gymnastics after all her time at Arete. Ivory gave up the tramp and tumbling side and focused on gymnastics. She quickly moved up to the advanced class. In fact, she was the only one in the class for quite a while, since it was a new program. Her coach Kiki was great and Ivory loved going.

We hit a good groove. Ivory was learning new skills, she wasn't gone too much, and our pocketbook could feel the difference.

Here is a video we made in 2016. Ivory had a talent night with the girls in her ward. She wanted to do gymnastics, but it is hard without the gym part. So we went to a park and she did a bunch of tricks. Props because it is much harder to do those things on grass than on a springy floor.

A year later after coming to High Altitude, Kiki made a gymnastics team. Team meant extra practices and the gym was talking about doing competition. After all, a gymnast can't feel fulfilled unless they have medals and can say they are the best. (Sense the sarcasm.) But it is what most gyms eventually go to - competition. (And I get it. Competition is a healthy way to test your skills. I just can't stomach the cost.)

Kiki was a little slow getting things moving. I actually figured they wouldn't get everything organized for another year, but then Jess was hired. She has been coaching for a while and she knew her stuff. Although the girls were already practicing three times a week, she made the practices longer. Ivory was suddenly missing dinner three times a week. But Jess made competition happen. We were right back in the boat that we had bailed from two years ago.

That said, it was time to let Ivory try it out. She had practiced hard and it was high time we saw if she wanted this to be her life. As her mother, I had already chosen for her. I wanted my Ives back. She was gone all the time, and my money with her, and when I picked her up, she was often gloomy or disappointed. The smile that came with gymnastics was fading. That was partly due to harder workouts, and partly to Jess, who was the bad cop to Kiki's good cop. I talked with Ivory quite a bit and together we decided that Ivory would compete, but then she would reevaluate with the possibility of quitting.

So, we did it all. The warm ups, the leos, the sparkles, and the practices. (I do have to hand it to Jess. Ivory's skills improved quite a bit under her coaching. Watching that video from the year before I could see that Ivory had gotten much better at bars and most of her tumbling skills.)

 Ivory's first competition was right before our cruise. We were all excited. We were experimenting with hair dos because she needed her hair off her neck. (Her hair was different at every meet.) I also sent her up with her teammates because I didn't want to be that mom who shows up late. Plus, Ivory wanted to go with them. It worked out well. I think Sofie's mom took her to all the events. Cute Sofie and Ives.

I have videos of her routines on each apparatus, but I'll put them with the meet they were in. I would like to apologize to my blog book. I know videos don't work in you, but sometimes I just need to put them on here regardless. So, kids, if you are reading this, you'll need to go to the blog to find these videos. Unless the zombie apocalypse has already happened and there is no internet. Then you should stop reading this and find a shotgun.

Meet one was called the Flower Power Meet. They get some kind of bling with each meet. I believe they got knee high socks with flowers on them. Strange, but unique, I guess. This was the first meet we had ever attended. I probably drove the other spectators crazy asking questions, but I had most of it figured out by the end.

Each gym starts on a different apparatus, but they always go in the order of vault, bars, beam, floor. In this case, our girls started on bars, which means they would do vault last. I was not very good at getting pictures throughout. I was either watching or taking video. I did get this fun picture of Ivory doing a practice routine on bars. I'm very sad because when I went to record her bar routine, I took a still instead of video. It was the best view and best routine she would do all season and I missed it. (Thanks Karma.)

Tyler got a great video of her floor routine. All the girls do the same routine to the same song. Trust me that you want to shove cotton in your ears after only listening to it a few times. It goes the entire two hours.

This was a strange meet. For some reason, the judge on floor did not like our team. They scored everyone so low. Her teammate who didn't complete her tumbling pass scored higher than Ivory. I was a little bugged. But there isn't much you can do. I would say that she performed about the same at each meet and never was her score that low again.

Ivory's scores: Flower Power Meet
Vault: 8.2
Bars: 9.0 (awesome job)
Beam: 6.4 (She fell off on her cartwheel)
Floor: 6.75 (lame judge)
All Around: 30.35

The awards ceremony is always super long. They call out every event for every age group. But the smiles are priceless.

These girls worked so hard. They did a great job. (Kiki is on the left, and Jess is on the right.) There are only four girls on the team: Ivory, Sofia, Kaitlin, and Ashley. All the girls are genuine, nice girls.

Off to dinner afterward. A gymnastics competition can sure work up an appetite. 

Ivory reminded me of a little German girl with her braided buns. I really liked how her hair looked when she took it out. It looked so soft and wavy right before bed. What a cutie pie.

Ives got a bit of a break after the first meet mid April. She didn't have another until May, but then the next three were back to back for three weekends straight. The second meet was Fun in the Sun. (They got towels.) At the beginning all the teams line up and they call roll so to speak and each team waves. It is one of my favorite parts.

I tried to redeem myself here by taking a video of Ivory's bar routine. She does a good job although she wobbles just a little while doing her squat-on (That is when she stands on the lower bar and gets ready to jump to the high bar.)

It was a very fun meet, made even more fun because Grandma Dargan came out to watch. My mom has always enjoyed gymnastics. I remember watching the Olympics with her when I was little, so it was a great time for her to watch a granddaughter at one of these events.

More smiles and medals. Fantastic job girls.

Ivory's scores: Fun in the Sun Meet
Vault: 8.15
Bars: 8.2
Beam: 7.575
Floor: 8.55
All Around: 32.475

Ivory was at level 4 for these meets. The cut off score in order to continue to level 5 is a 32. However, Ivory's coach wanted the girls to get a 34 in order to start level 5 training.

By this time, Ivory and I had already decided that she would not by continuing in the summer. Practices were going to increase to four hours a day, four days a week. It was going to be her entire summer. Not to mention the schedule in the fall when school started again. I love that Ivory has done well and become strong and confident (heck, she has a six pack) but this is not what I want her to do forever. I don't want this to be her life. So many times friends have called or activities have come up that she hasn't been able to do because she is at the gym. I feel like her youth will slip away and she will have a handful of medals to show for it. I would rather she have a wider range of memories to choose from than just the four walls of the gym. I do think the skills she has learned will be precious to her in many areas. I hope she stays strong and loves to do hard things. I think she will be amazing at anything she tries.

The third meet of the season was at Arete, so Ivory was familiar with the gym. That was one of the craziest meets in my opinion. May was the month of my driving everywhere. (Tyler hasn't quite got to that part of the ankle narrative, but he couldn't drive for a month.) We all went out to be supportive, but Tyler couldn't sit still long enough. (Ankle pain, blah, blah, blah.) Luckily, Arete was not far from home base, so I drove him back home. Sadly, I realized too late, that I should have taken the littles home as well. So I made another trip to get them home to go to bed. All this driving meant I missed Ives' bar routine and I barely made it back for beam. Here is a fun picture Tyler took of Ivory through the binoculars.

This meet was a Co-op Championship. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but there were girls from different levels there, and glory be...some of them had different music for their floor routines. It was a nice break, I can tell you. Ember, Ivory's friend, came along as well. It was fun to sit in the stands (when I was there) with her. I realize this next picture is truly awful, but that is Ivory up there on the third place stand. That is pretty great.

Everyone did very well at this meet. Ivory had some of her best scores of the season. Look how close she got to 34 points.

Ivory's scores: Co-op Championship
Vault: 8.4
Bars: 8.75
Beam: 8.3
Floor: 8.5
All Around: 33.95

I love this picture. These two girls look so different, but I love that they are great friends. We had a fun time going out to dinner after the meet.

The last meet of the season was State. Once again, I really don't know how this all works. I think you have to compete in at last three meets in order to go to the Utah State Championships. The day was also divided by age, so Sofie competed earlier in the day and the other three girls competed in the afternoon. That is why not all four are waving here. (Sofie is quite tall for her age. I believe she is only 8.)

State was very fun. I took video of all her events. Robyn and June came to cheer Ivory on. She did very well. I was particularly proud of her vault. I have never seen her make a large mistake on vault, but on her first vault, she fell. They only take the best of two vault scores, but it is very hard to compose yourself after a mistake, but you can see here how she does...

Pretty awesome. She ended up getting an 8.5 on her vault. She also had one of her most solid routines on the beam. I was very proud of her.

Overall, it was a great day for her.

Ivory's scores: Utah State Championship
Vault: 8.5
Bars: 7.775
Beam: 8.5
Floor: 8.35
All Around: 33.125

She missed a skill on bars, so her all around score wasn't quite as high, but I think she did a great job. However, at state there is fierce competition. Ivory didn't even place in any category. That was also the evening that we had to tell her coaches that she wasn't continuing on. But we still had a great ending to the evening. We went out to eat and enjoyed being together as a family and looking forward to more time to spend together. These girls mean the world to me.

Gymnastics has been such an engaging activity for Ivory. If I could go back, I would do it all again. The smiles and growth have been more than worth it. But I'm also excited for other memories we will make in the future.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Monkey Highlights Four

Another busy week under our belts. This was week four of summer, and I'm in denial that this is the last week of June. Summer really flies.

What did we have going these past moons? Last Sunday was Father's Day and that deserves its own post. Tyler tried some new fashion trends. (It is rare that he can embarrass me, but sometimes he is just a bit over the top.)

Bright and early Monday morning, I took Ivory to the designated area to relieve all parents of children for five days. They call it camp. I call it a blessed relief. Just kidding, I already had almost a week without Ivory. I wasn't ready for her to leave again, but she was more than willing to take off on another adventure. We got her easily checked in, with, I might add, no misspelled names. (Small summer miracle.) She had plenty of friends to go with and I knew she would make plenty more.

One more selfie with mom.

Onto the bus, and then off into the wilderness. She took pictures which I plan to have developed sometime in the next year. (At least that is honest, if not optimistic.)

That afternoon we made it to the park with friends again. Highlights included all the little boys gathering snails from the small stream. And definitely the fact that no one knew the word archipelago. We brought Probe and I thought that would be a great word. Too bad no one had heard of it. (And I'm not just talking June. Jonny, Beth, and Lindsay didn't know it either. For the record, it is easier to win when no one knows your word. Do you know what archipelago means?)

In the evening we had a block party. Potluck style led to plenty of amazing food. We played games well into the evening. The twins taught us 'kill' that you play with a ball. I was really bad at it, but it was fun to play anyway.

Then we played a couple more games at home.

Robyn suddenly decided on a haircut. Look up there at the hoola hoop picture. Her hair was really long. She brushed it out on the way to Kellie's and she looked like Cousin It because it was so fluffy.

Her hair is still plenty fluffy (when its dry), but now it is shorter.

June started school on Wed. We all laughed at her Tuesday night, because we said it was a school night and she had to go to bed. She opted to take P.E. over the summer so she would have room in her schedule for other things. It sounded good at the time, but I think part of her regrets it. However, no choice about it now, and she has a good attitude as she goes to school for four hours a day. At least it is only for 3 weeks.

When the kids are at home, we play lots of games and do hair often. Here is a fun thing I tried on June's hair.

Daisy was taking some pictures and it makes me laugh that she took a picture of her face over Mr. Flibble. Something seems fishy about that picture.

After getting some cheap chips at the store, we've played more Fan Tan recently. This isn't my hand, but I wouldn't mind four sevens.

Our friend gives us tickets to the Parade of Home every year. We usually run out of time and never make it over, but this time Tyler got our cabooses in gear. Luckily, there were four houses right next to each other, so we browsed around there. There are always some fun ideas. I think I like different walls.

Tyler took a picture of a small door leading into a pantry. It made me laugh because some lady stooped down just as he took a picture. Is it still photo bombing if we caught her instead of the other way around?

Friday rolled around like Fridays do, and Ivory was back. Still smiling.

She had such a great time. She said she didn't miss me at all. Not surprising really.

So I sent her off to babysit and went to the temple with my honey. (Don't worry, I caught up to her at bedtime and let her yak my ear off about camp stories.)

Finally just a nice relaxing day of church. We had Stake Conference and I loved every session. Robyn was doodling during the general session today. She drew a mom with 14 arms. That is really how I feel; always running and doing. I guess moms are pretty amazing.

p.s. Speaking of moms, we had our family book group today. It was fun to catch up with Granny V and Grandma Dargan and Tim. We read the Hollow Kingdom series. (Well, I've read them before, and we were only assigned the first book to read, but it was great to reread the whole series.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What's One Ankle More or Less (Part I)

This is Raging Stallion, guest posting regarding "the ankle," which has come up a few times in the last few posts. This is yet another epic saga in the tome that is my life, so I'll be presenting it it more than one segment. After all, mere mortals can only handle so much. So, here's Part I of What's One Ankle More or Less.

Pause for effect...

At 1:42 a.m. on June 8, 1996, the bowling lanes were empty. Two minutes later, I would be on my knees in the worst pain my strapping, rugged, overtly handsome body had yet felt.

It was the all-night high-school graduating senior class party. The Elk's Lodge, whose primary selling point had been a spacious gym, was decorated and arrayed with lots of fun little rooms where games had been set up to accommodate the wild seniors of 1996. Most importantly, the bowling alleys were in the basement — and they were the most sought-after attractions of the evening.

The Elk's Lodge, Idaho Falls — where it all began.

I'd been rambling back and forth across the gym all night, dodging sleep drunk dames that didn't have a lot of inhibition when they were fully rested, making my way to the far side of the gym, where the long stairway of old-timer steps led down to the bowling alleys below. There was one of those rickety 1970s plastic deep-dish chairs at the bottom, where a not-so-gentleman kept reminding me that going up and down stairs actually wasn't that interesting, and maybe I should stop doing it.

I wasn't going up and down geriatric steps for my health! I was going up and down geriatric steps to check on the lines at the bowling alley! At 1:42, finally, the Holy Grail of The Class of '96 All Nighter: no lines at the bowling alley! I could hardly contain myself. I fully bolted up the stairs, taking them two or three at a time. At the top, I rounded the handrail, and searched the crowd of lazed no-longer students. I found my friend, Sparky, in the crowd, naturally on the other side of the gym.

Short lines at the bowling alley were precious, but no lines? That was priceless.

I wasn't going to let that kind of opportunity slip away. I had to alert my friends. "Hey guys!" (In retrospect, a poor word choice to summon my particular friends.) "The bowling alley's got no lines!" This exclamation had the intended effect of informing my friends. They dutifully adjusted heading and speed in my direction.

Of course, such an anonymous message was bound to be misinterpreted as to be intended for someone else. As it turns out, there were a whole lot of someone elses. Most of the graduating class of 1996 turned toward me, assessed this new information, calculated the distance my posse had to travel to get to the bowling alley, then figured in all the pranks and misdeeds perpetrated against them as only a high-school senior can figure, and arrived at the conclusion that, in fact, they would be the ones to go bowling instead.

Having grown up in Idaho, you'd think I would have experienced a stampede sometime in my life. Nope. The rampaging horde of narcoleptic zombies pressed on my position — it was the first stampede I'd ever seen. It was ... terrifying! At once I realized that I was the tip of the spear. If anyone was going to claim those bowling lanes, it was going to be me! I took a last look into the gaping maw of the mob, but I could no longer see my friends. I turned, and ran.

The first few steps toward the stairs were easy. I was gaining speed, as I used my arm to grip and spin my way onto the flight of stairs. Five or six stairs in, I could hear the throng converging at the top of the stairs, negotiating that tricky crowded first turn like so many holeshot motocross starts. About ten steps in, I turned to see Kevin Longhurst, center for the football team was lumbering toward me like a tree felled in the forest: uncontrollable and massive. This was good information to have. I was about to be crushed by a 200+ pound man who probably couldn't have stopped himself if he'd wanted to, and the look on his face said he hadn't wanted to.

Despite possession of critical information, it was here that physics taught me a valuable lesson that would later serve me well while playing sports: when one turns their head, their shoulders follow. Where the shoulders go, so go the hips. And where the hips go, the feet go. Despite the gaping surface area of the old-man stairs, my feet had followed my hips.

By the time I realized my right foot was pointing at the wall, not down the stairs, I was busy rolling the full weight of my body across the lateral side of my right ankle. I think my body weight would have stopped somewhere around where the ground should have been, and I probably would have been ok, but my ankle just kept right on rolling...down onto the next step. There was a seizing pain in my ankle, followed by a quick, short crack.

That's when my ankle went on strike and refused to support the idiot racing down the stairs on it. To spare you the gruesome and humiliating details. I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, holding my ankle to stop the pain, and holding my breath to keep the tears from leaking out. That not-so gentleman at the bottom of the stairs let me sit on his retro plastic throne to rest.

The ankle swelled. The parents were called. The ER was visited. The x-rays were taken. The drugs were administered. The crutches were given. And I returned to the senior party in an air splint boot, totally high and just in time for the party to end. I had a hairline fracture of the fibula. Weak. They didn't even cast it.

What I didn't know was that the serious injury that would impact me into the future longer than I had yet been alive, was not the hairline fracture to the fibula. That injury went completely un-diagnosed.

Tune in next week for more Raging Stallion and the Adventures of Ankle Man!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Murder in Fairytale Land

*Guest post written by Robyn Cazier

My birthday was recently. I turned 13. It's so great now, because I can finally watch movies.

Anyway, my party was a while ago, but my mom's slow in blogging because of our everyday busy lifestyle, so I am going to write about my amazing birthday party. That happened several months ago.

When I was still 12, I wanted my party to be cool. I didn't want something boring, or not really partyish.
My parents had just recently gone to Idaho to have a Murder Mystery with my relatives, but sadly, us kids, weren't invited. We still got to play games with Grandma, (We actually ended up making a million treats and watching a good movie.... but still.) but it wasn't as cool as a Murder Mystery. You can see their Murder Mystery here.

I really wanted in on their Murder Mystery, but there wasn't any kids, like I said, so I asked mom if I could have my own Murder Mystery... for my birthday.

My birthday, of course, was still a little ways away. They had their Murder Mystery in February, and my birthday wouldn't come until a few months after that. But I really talked it up at school. All my friends wanted to come. So check, on that ultimate list of awesomeness.

I handed out my invitations, but some of the people I really wanted to come, couldn't come. My best friend couldn't come, which was sad. And one of my percussion friends couldn't come either. But I made the best of my invitations.

Most everyone who RSVP-ed came. One girl didn't come because her grandfather had a stroke.

I even painted the window to go with my party

It was really excited when someone would come, because everyone was supposed to be in costume.
I was Queen Black, because her character was hosting the party, and I thought that would fit since I hosted the party.

As guests arrived, they were welcomed to the Enchanted Realm:

Everyone was looking pretty good

* You may notice that the names are similar to Disney characters. Don't worry, everything in the Murder Mystery was changed just a bit to protect copyright.

Since it was my birthday, I got to choose what we ate for dinner. I'm kind of a chip and salsa person, without the salsa. So we had a chippy dippy thingamajig. It's called 'Beef taco skillet' and man, it was good! From what I could tell, most everyone like it too. That started round one.

Then we took a group photo.

Then my mom had to open her mouth and say: 'Point at who you like the least!'

On my birthday too!

But the theme of the Murder Mystery was a fairy tale sort of thing, and I wasn't being very nice. Most of the people there had some pretty good reasons not to like me, but that is no excuse for saying they liked me the least, ON MY BIRTHDAY.

Anyway, then we got into the game. It was really fun. These pictures are from the rest of round one,  and the beginning of round two.

 Everyone had little papers to tell them what to do and say. And most everyone stayed pretty in character.

Then all of a sudden-the lights went out! (Not really, but in the game they did. We did turn out the lights, but it wasn't very dark.) There was a loud noise and the lights came back on, and I had died! And there was a bloody lantern, and my forehead was bashed.

Everyone tried to figure out who had done it. Not because they didn't like that I died, they did, but that was the point of the game.

There was a lot of stuff that happened, and the third round started. After everyone had conversed, all the clues pointed at one person.

MAGNIFICENT!! She had some good reasons for killing me, which was sad. But I still like her, she is still my friend, even though she did kill me.

All in all, it was a really fun game, and one of the best birthday parties I've every had.

Of course, since it was my birthday, I got presents.

The Bat cave nightgown meant a lot, because, Batman, one of the people at the party, gave it to me. It was just so fitting.

Then the Stafford's gave me a little note.
It said, 'We didn't know what you wanted, so we got you 10 dollars.'

It was a great night. And one of the funniest things was that Christina's horns, which were homemade, were a huge hit. Everyone wanted to try them on.

Happy Birthday to me!

* One funny moment. We were playing Mafia later. Christina thought it would be a cool idea to take pictures while her eyes were closed so maybe she could look back and catch the Mafia people with their eyes open. She took a ton of pictures, but when she looked at them, she realized she had been in selfie mode and they were all of HER! Haha. Sadly, she deleted them before we could see them.