Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gymnasts Squared

I promise that I don't love Ivory more than my other children...she just happens to have a lot of stuff going on recently, so here is another post about her.

This year has been interesting because Ivory is following in June's footsteps in A.L.L. She has the same teacher June had in 5th grade and many of her projects have been the same. But several of her projects have been different. This is disconcerting to me. I feel like I know what is coming and then it is all changed. Most of it has been easier. From what I gather, Mrs. Mahoney feels there are some kids that couldn't handle the rigors of previous assignments so she has slimmed them down a bit.

Hmmm...not sure how I feel about that?

Images of Greatness is a HUGE night for A.L.L. In the past, the kids have made boards, done several side projects, dressed as their person and come to an evening where they recited a bio poem, which is a poem that rhymed detailing the life of their person. They had to write the poem themselves and memorize it. It was intense. June went as Laura Ingalls Wilder the first year and Princess Di the second.

This time around, the kids were asked to do an essay instead of a bio-riddle. That meant they didn't have an evening centered around the kids. Instead they had an afternoon where they set up their boards, but get this...dressing up was optional. Boo. It didn't have the same feel at all.

Ivory worked so hard on her project though. In 5th grade they have to choose an American who has had an impact. Ivory wanted to do Simone Biles, but Mrs. Mahoney said she didn't qualify. Ivory was very sad. She tried picking other people, but her heart wasn't in it. On the day they had to finalize their choice, Mrs. Mahoney caved and allowed a few exceptions. Simone Biles was one.

In part, Mrs. Mahoney was worried about kids finding enough info and getting a book about their person. Luckily, just such a book exists about Simone. Check out Courage to Soar. Ivory loved the book and was always telling me little tid-bits about it.

Her board looked great when she finished it. Kudos Ives. (Please ignore the messy house behind, although that is how things usually look.)

Here are some interesting facts about Simone.

On the day of, it was fun to go around and see all the boards. Even without the bio-riddles, it was cool to see all the people the kids picked to research.

Sadly, not many people dressed up, but you'd better believe Ivory did. We put glitter around her eyes (like Simone) and she even put chalk on her clothes as if she had just been competing on the beam or bars.

They had to bring three items to go with their board. Ivory chose the book, some medals, and I talked her into bringing her beam. It was a hit. Her project was on the edge, so she set up her beam nearby and entertained people. We took these pictures before it got too crowded. For a while there was a group of girls around her. She eventually put her beam away to keep it safe.

It was a very fun afternoon, although I think I still like the evening version more. Perhaps it was like this because the 5th and 6th grade A.L.L. are currently at separate schools. Who knows? All the kids did a great job on their projects. My other favorite board was this one...

Abby got special permission as well to do Bethany Hamilton. What an inspiring lady. Sadly, Abby was gone that day. I would have loved to see her dressed up with one arm.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ivory's 11 Year Gallery

That's right. This spicy personality is 11!

We already celebrated her last month, but as usual, birthday shoots run a little slower. I asked Ivory where she wanted to take pictures. We stewed it over for a while and then we both came up with the same the gym.

Ivory spends an insane amount of time there anyway. And it is fun to get some pictures of her doing what she loves. We got special permission to come in on a Saturday. On a weekday it would have been super crowded, but we had the gym almost to ourselves. (The tumbling team was there, but we stayed out of their way.) Ivory switched over to High Altitude a year or so ago and she has had a great experience there. I'm not sure gymnastics will be her entire future, but I love the skills she has learned and the strength she has developed. Enjoy her photo shoot.

Since we found a mirror, I was able to get a picture with her as well.

It was lucky that we were indoors because it decided to rain. Despite the dreary weather, Ivory was convinced that she wanted Menchie's for her treat. It was too early and they weren't even open, but we came back as soon as frozen goodness was available. Love my Ives. Do you like how I'm emphasizing my silver highlights. (Someone called me out the other day. She said, "Maleen, you are going gray." I told her it wasn't anything new. I'm just embracing it.)

I'm pretty sure Ivory is a chocolate addict. Remember her birthday when she asked for Brownies with Chocolate ice cream? Well, I think everything in her Menchie's bowl was brown with extra chocolate drizzled on top. I can't really blame her.

Ivory gets more expressive with every year. I love her more every year she gets older. And speaking of older, would you like a sneak preview of how she will look as a granny?

At least she will be a happy old lady.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Battling Books

I love me a current event since I am always catching up. And nothing is fresher than the news I have for you today. Well, actually, it is about 4 hours old, and if you left milk out that long, it would be naaaasty. (But still pretty fresh for this blog.)

The junior high did Battle of the Books today. (And yesterday.) I feel guilty because Ivory and Daisy did theirs back in February. They both did a great job, but I was volunteering, so I never got pictures. Daisy's team was the only 3rd grade team to make it to the semi-finals, although they didn't win. And Ivory's team got a great score on pool play day, but didn't make it on finals day. But they both read many books and had a good time. I'm proud of all the kids who take a stab at reading a pile of books and answering questions about them.

Personally, I love reading. (You know that.) But if I had to take a quiz on what I read, it would be laughable.

Back to current events. I asked to help out with the junior high battles, and since I am at the school often, I just had to run over during flex. Battling at our junior high is much different than the normal battles. Our media specialist doesn't follow the American Battle of the Books format.

You only have to read 7 books instead of 30. (The librarian chose books he thought the kids would be interested in.) The question format is different as well. In standard play, every question has a book title as an answer. Most questions begin, "In what book..." and the kids give a title and author for points.

Here, Mr. Trent (the media specialist) made up his own questions and rounds. Round 1 consisted of open answer questions, such as, "Who was Kira's best friend?" Or "What did Rigel learn from the mystic?" (Those are made up questions, by the way.) All the teams had a mini white board and they would answer simultaneously. Whoever answered correctly, received a point.

My job was keeping score. Mr. Trent had a projector with questions and answers and I kept a tally of all points earned. Round 1 was played yesterday and at the end of Flex, these were the scores. (Team 1 and Team 10 didn't show up. That is why they have no points...not because they were awful.)

In case you are wondering (and I know you are) Robyn is on the Cherry Bombers - Team 4, and June is on the Bookaneers - Team 9. Apparently, they have never had names before, but I asked the teams what they wanted to be called and everyone chose something. (I'm all about shaking it up.)

As you can see, June's team was leading, but only by a small margin. The rules change for Round 2 and 3, so it was anyone's game.

Round 2 consisted of quotes from the books. If the teams recognized the book, they could write it down. It was worth 2 points now, but a wrong answer subtracted 2 from your total. So, it wasn't wise to guess. I honestly can't remember the scores at the end of Round 2, but it was pretty close.

Round 3 was open answer again, but this time instead of using the white boards (or placards as Mr. Trent called them) the first person to raise their hand, would answer, with no help from their team. The questions were a bit harder and were now worth 3 points with a wrong answer subtracting 3. It was intense and much harder to tell who raised their hand first. That part always stresses me out.

All the kids did a fantastic job. I was especially proud of June who answered the question, "What was the date of Anne's last journal entry." No one else even raised their hand because no one wanted to get it wrong, but June remembered. (She should after studying Anne Frank so much for History Fair, but that is still a very small detail to remember.)

The game was SOOOO close, with only 1 point separating the winner and second place. Check it out.

Yes, I would like to brag a moment that my kids' teams came in 1st and 2nd. They both did a great job, along with the 3rd place team. That is a lot of info to remember. I did get pictures at the end so you get some happy faces of the winning teams.

p.s. I can't remember, but I think June came in 2nd or 3rd last year, but I never blogged about it.

p.p.s. To the right of Robyn is Christina, one of June's best friends. When Robyn couldn't find a fourth person for her team, Christina offered to join. I thought that was pretty cool. She was the only 8th grader on their team. Maybe next year, June and Robyn will be on the same team...but I doubt it.

p.p.p.s. If you are wondering what they read, here is a list of the seven books:

When by Victoria Laurie
Red Queen by Victorie Aveyard
Storm of Lightning by Richard Paul Evans (Michael Vey)
Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Where O Where is Seamus?

Did you wear your green last week? I feel like less people celebrate St. Patrick's Day each year. We certainly can't ignore it around here, since we have a leprechaun. Although this year, we didn't get any puzzles from Seamus.

Still, we dutifully got gold for Seamus and made our wishes.

You may have noticed Hannah in there. She and June were in the midst of some serious History Fair prep, so she got to make wishes with us. (She was practically living with us while the girls were getting their exhibit ready.)

We still stick coins to our head and drop them in the pot. Robyn was taking too long, in my opinion, so I gave her a whack on the head and sure enough, the coin came right off. (I don't think she was terribly pleased with me.)

The next morning, there was something in the pot, and a very interesting letter included. It wasn't from Seamus.

You’ve probably noticed that Seamus has been a bit scarce this year. Well, that’d be because he’s traveling. He’s on a great adventure that promises a large bounty of gold.

It’s leprechaun custom to protect territory, especially when one is engaged in a great quest. Seamus and I have a great, long history together, and when he left on his adventure, he sent me to protect his lands while he’s away.

Seamus is a natural puzzler, but I do not possess his innate abilities for befuddlements and bemusement. I, on the other hand, am an archivist — a historian and storyteller. And so, in return for the gold you’ve passed to me and Seamus, I leave you a story, such as it is.

It is a story of ancient origin, around the time of the formation of the race of man and all the glorious fairy creatures.

The great heroes of the age grew large in stature in direct relation to their fame, their strength, and their cunning. And the most giant of the heroes was Fionn mac Cumhaill, or as you say it “Finn MacCool.”

Finn was no ordinary giant. He possessed great strength and skill. He was the greatest giant in all of Ireland. He hand was so enormous he could fit a hundred men on one hand and easily raise them into the air. Many claimed they could hear his bellowing laughter across the sea, but others claim it was just thunder.

Finn lived with his wife, Oonagh. You say it “Oonah.” Finn and Oonah lived in an ancient castle set formidably on the rolling hills of County Antrim, overlooking the sea.

Finn and Oonah received many visitors and encouraged common folk to come and see them. They came to admire Finn, to speak with Oonah, and sometimes to ask for help. Finn performed many brave deeds in service to the people. That’s how he became a hero of the people. And each great deed added to his already great stature.

At that time, aye and to this day, Scotland harbored power thirsty, indecent folk who would say or do anything for recognition. They too had heroes, and while they were large, they certainly never achieved the size of Irish giants — especially Finn. Nevertheless, a messenger arrived from Scotland over the sea, bearing a challenge from Scotland’s great giant, Angus, who unabashedly proclaimed himself as stronger than Finn and larger than Finn. Angus wanted to show everyone that the giants of Scotland were greater than any giant in Ireland.

Now Finn had never seen this Angus before, but with the honor of Ireland at stake, he couldn’t ignore Angus’ challenge. Finn dropped to the ground to cast his eye upon this puny messenger. He squinted and oogled to see if he could find any clues about Angus. Finding none, Finn stood, clapped his hands, and boomed that he should like to meet this Angus. He set the messenger in his boat and fully hurled the boat skipping across the sea back to Scotland.

As no boat float Finn, he set about building a bridge from Ireland to Scotland — a veritable giant’s bridge. He pulled great basaltic rods from volcanoes to drive into the ocean floor, thus forming a great rocky bridge on a direct route to Scotland.

Mile after mile of causeway, Finn built this legendary bridge toward Scotland. Humans came from all around to see the great formation, and word soon traveled to Angus’ ears that Finn had begun work on the great bridge. Not to be outdone, Angus started construction of the causeway on the Scottish side, claiming he’d achieved the idea himself. For weeks, the giants labored to span the sea. Each night they would return to their respective homes over the massive rocky bridge to rest and prepare for the next day.

One morning, as Finn was preparing to go to the causeway, Oonah came rushing toward him. She was red faced and clearly shaken. She had been to the bridge to observe Finn’s work and had found the great Angus nearly completing the causeway. What she saw struck fear in her heart: Angus was indeed much taller than Finn. He was nearly twice Finn’s size! She immediately made for the castle to share this information with Finn.

“He’s twice your size!” she blurted, “and twice your strength. You cannot match him in battle. You must retire from the match!”

“How can I fight a giant twice my size?” Finn wondered aloud. His forehead was creased and his brow furrowed with anxiety.

Just then, a knock at the door tugged at their attention. It was the messenger from Scotland. Having crossed the sea on foot over the great giant’s causeway, he extended his formal invitation. “On the morrow at sunrise, you are hereby called to a battle of brute strength. Angus will meet you here.”

Finn glanced at Oonah, then considered his words. Could he really fight another giant twice his size? What would Ireland think if he abandoned the fight now? What should he do? This questions hung in the air as the messenger awaited Finn’s answer.

“What shall I tell Angus?” he demanded.

“Tell him to find me here at sunrise,” Finn intoned through the door.

“So be it,” the messenger affirmed, “Angus shall be here, tomorrow at sunrise. Then we shall see who is the greatest giant in all the land!” With that, he gestured a quick farewell to the door and returned to the causeway.

Oonah stared at Finn in disbelief. How could this work out well for Finn? She and Finn discussed their plight throughout the night. And by morning, they had settled on a plan.

As the sun peaked over the rolling hills of County Antrim, Angus came thundering across the causeway eager to meet Ireland’s Finn. He strode to the castle and pounded the door with such force that dust fell from the ceiling.

“I am Angus, the great giant of Scotland. I seek Finn, champion of Ireland. Today we fight for the title of the greatest giant of the land.”

It was Oonah that came to the door. “Quiet,” she hushed, “you’ll wake the baby!”

Now Angus hadn’t made an account of Finn’s children. Out of deference to the child’s mother, Angus hushed his tone. “My apologies. I did not know Finn had a child.”

“You may see him if you wish. Finn’s is preparing for the challenge and shall be with us by and by. Please come in.”

Angus entered the castle and cast his eyes toward the enormous cradle. A deafening cry issued from the bassinet, and Angus peeked over the edge. There lay the largest baby Angus had ever beheld. “Is this Finn’s son?” Angus posed, chagrined.

Oonah rushed over to the edge of the cradle to comfort the cries. “Oh, young Finn is awake now, but he doesn’t seem too upset yet.” She cooed softly into the cradle. Angus couldn’t see it, but Oonah gazed carefully at him.

Angus’ eyes grew wide and he began to consider this baby. The baby was over half his size, and if this was the small infant baby of Finn...there can be no doubt that Finn must be colossal! He must not allow himself to be seen! Finn would surely crush him in a physical brawl. He backed away from the cradle, shaking his head from side to side. Then, at once, he turned and positively bolted from the castle.

He flew past the startled messenger, striding for the causeway. “Retreat!” he yelled. “Back to Scotland.” He tore across the causeway and didn’t slow until he reached his own country. Afraid that the great Finn might follow him across the causeway, he started to tear the basaltic stone rods from their moorings. The bridge soon lay in ruin as the sea reclaimed the passage between Ireland and Scotland.

For his part, the last Finn ever saw of Angus was his rapid retreat across the causeway. He stood at the door of his castle, draped in blankets that served as his “baby” clothes.

If you travel to County Antrim today, you can still see a small piece of the causeway. Today it’s called the Giant’s Causeway — built by the great Finn MacCool, the most famous giant in the history of Ireland.

Well, now you know the story of Finn MacCool and his crafty wife, Oonah. You are all pretty crafty too, eh? I’ll see to it that Seamus gets the gold, minus a small handling fee for me, of course. I guess we’ll see where Seamus is next year, but that’s another story.

By the way, dear Ivory, Seamus has loved being your leprechaun these fine years. He told me ye all were a fine lot, and I can see from your letter than ye have tender, genuine hearts. I’ve forwarded your letter on to Seamus, who no doubt will be pleased to have news of his homeland. Please accept this as a token of my appreciation for the opportunity to share your company.

Your friend,
Keeper of the lands, and
Teller of tremendous tales,

Faolan Connolly

You pronounce that name as Fway-lan. (We had to look it up.) And Faolan was nice enough to leave us some treats. The girls seemed happy with the story and the sugar.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. (Even if you didn't wear green.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Good Riddance February

Once again February was not my favorite month. I was sick half the month, June was out of school for almost a week, and I ended the month by throwing out my back. Yowzers.

But that doesn't mean that the whole month was bad. We tend to fit in fun activities even when things aren't ideal. Let's look at some of the random fun moments we had.

Tyler went up to Front Sight again. I hope he blogs about his experience again. He had a great time,  made even greater by the fact that his back didn't come into contact with a super heated brass casing. No burns this time around. We girls had to fend for ourselves at home. I was sad to be missing Tyler, especially since I was sick, but I didn't want him getting whatever I had, so it was fine for him to be MIA for a bit. We sent him a picture of Sunday night dinner to show that we missed him.

June continues to churn out fun art projects. She could have her own display by the time the art show rolls around. No wonder it is so fantastic; so many different types of art. This time around was the graph paper art. (There might be a more technical name?) I love how June's project turned out.

My new calling has been really fun. We had our camp kickoff in February to let everyone know the theme for camp. It is Find Your Grove. I love how well it goes with the Youth Theme for the year, Ask. I think we each need to find a place where we feel comfortable communing with our Father in Heaven. The sisters did a great job decorating for the event. It makes me so excited for camp.

For Valentine's Day, the kids made their own boxes. Daisy came up with an idea for a minion box. It turned out super cute and I never took a picture, but I did manage to catch Ivory's crazy minion spawned from the original idea.

We did pretty simple valentines this year. Although anything that requires an assembly line means we put in time and effort.

New Beginnings in Young Women rolled around again. No new Cazier girls entered, but both the older girls helped out and gave information about one of the values. Robyn did Faith and June did Virtue. They both did a great job. I'm proud of my girls that they can easily speak in front of a crowd without getting visibly nervous. They are such beautiful competent young women.

Robyn saved up some money to buy herself a watch. We played around at Target for a while. We laughed at this sun hat. We know they are supposed to be floppy, but this seems overly so. I did end up buying those sunglasses though.

At the Jnuior High, there is a student of the day each day. One kid per grade. I think they are recommended by the teachers. Sadly, June was never student of the day last year. And this year, it was past half the year and still no recognition for her. She is such a great student that we were really surprised. Some people had been it twice and still no dice for June. But finally, the week she was sick, it was her turn. Don't worry, she finally went back to school on Friday and that was her moment.

During student-led conferences, they also held the 7th Grade art show. Robyn had a couple pieces. (They don't get to choose what they draw in 7th grade. They are given a few options, but you don't get to pick your own subject.) I really liked both of Robyn's pieces. The starfish eyes especially look like Robyn's work.

Ivory lost another tooth. This one was very bloody. I took a picture of the very bloody tooth, but I won't put that on here. Just the very bloody socket. (You're welcome.)

Finally Robyn had to go back to Color Me Mine to finish her project since it was a little more intricate. I took her back and really liked how it turned out. Now she has two pony plates. One might think she is making a collection...

So I guess February wasn't so bad after all. And good things come from trials. This last episode with my back inspired me to look into a better solution. I'm happy to say that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. But that is a story for another time...