Monday, January 25, 2016

Continued adventures in fencing!

Happy new year! (somewhat belatedly...) I hope 2016 is off to a good start for you and yours. For us, life continues on in it usual hectic manner. Aaron started working again in December, so we're all adjusting to having both of us out of the house full-time. It's a big change but a very good one.

Since I last posted, Maisie's fenced in two tournaments!

The first was in December, Windy City Super Youth Circuit (SYC), in Chicago. This was a tournament of many firsts: her first traveling tournament, and her first time fencing kids from other sword clubs. She did quite well!

She and I arrived on Friday morning. Her event was Saturday, but we didn't know at what time, so we came down a day early so as not to cut it too close... and to have some free time in Chicago! After checking in at the hotel, we hopped on the El to downtown. We stopped by Cathy and Jim's office for a brief but lovely visit, then we went over to the Christmas market! I'd heard a lot about it but had never been before. Maisie had hot apple cider, in a keepsake little booth-shaped mug, to warm up!

The whole time she was like "My friends are in school and I'm in Chicago!!" like she couldn't believe it.

Saturday was the big tournament day!

Maisie was ready to go. There were 9 girls in her age/weapon group, and in fencing tournaments, the top 8 are awarded medals. So her goal, which seemed really achievable, was to medal. (Also I did NOT want to see how upset she'd be if she were the only one who didn't medal!!) So with that, we were off and fencing...
The tournament itself wasn't the best-organized for the girls. There were 3 strips going, so as soon as one bout finished she'd get her mask off but would immediately be called to her next bout. There wasn't a chance to take a breather or listen to her coach!

At the end, she made her goal, placing 7th.

I was (and am) so proud of her! She worked really hard. I think she was a little disappointed in herself, but it ended up a very positive experience.

Then yesterday was another small tournament at our home sword club. This one only had TWO girls in the age/weapon category - Maisie and her buddy Inga. They fenced two bouts - a seeding round that Maisie won 5-3, then they did the final bout, which goes to 10. Maisie got down 1-6, fought back to bring it to 9-9, but ended up losing the match point. She was incredibly disappointed, cried a lot, and asked to go home immediately afterwards instead of sticking around to watch other fencers.

She perked up when I asked if she and Ella wanted to go to the Mall of America to ride the rides, and even ended up putting her medal back on and smiling about it.

Next up for Maisie is the North American Cup, in Salt Lake City in March. I've never been to SLC before. I'm looking forward to it! She's excited about seeing mountains for the first time, and seeing some of the girls she met in Chicago.

She's really enjoying fencing, and I'm really proud of how well she's doing. She's working hard and seeing the results! It's a lot of fun to watch.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Maisie is 9!

Last week was Maisie’s 9th birthday!

Instead of a friends party this year, she asked to go up north to The Edge. The Edgewater is a hotel with a waterpark that she and Ella love! Happily, her BFF Ophelia was able to come with us. It was a quick trip – the girls were off school on Friday the 30th, so we went up in the morning, hunted for agates on the shore of Lake Superior...

watched the bridge go up, and then got an early lunch at Grandma's.

Lunch complete with hot chocolate - it's colder by the lake!

By noon we were swimming and playing in the waterpark!

Ella, Maisie, Tiki Tom, and Ophelia

Saturday morning the girls got up early. After a quick breakfast, it was back to the waterpark for a few hours, before it was time to head back to Minneapolis for trick or treating. We had so much fun at the Edge with Ophelia. It was a great alternative to a birthday party!

Maisie’s actual birthday was on a Tuesday, so we went to dinner at her favorite restaurant (a buffet place on Lake Street) with Gramma Liisa. Our server caught wind of the birthday, and they brought her out a little dessert plate with the most amazing candle! 

It looked like a firework at first, and then opened up to reveal a flower, with a little candle on each petal.

It was so cool. Maisie was completely delighted!

Then this weekend, we had dinner with Auntie Laura, Dylan, and Dan at their house, which was awesomely fun. Check out the Portal cake they made for her – she loved it!

At 9, Maisie is just a great person. She loves Pokemon, anime, her family, koalas, reading, drawing, and cooking. She’s beginning to act a little tween-y sometimes, but still loves to snuggle and be read to.

At Convergence 2015 - she loved this person's cosplay of Lucy from Fairy Tale, a favorite anime.

She’s smart and funny, a caring friend, and a fierce fencer.

She told me the other day that she’s glad that I’m her mom. I told her that I’m glad she’s my kid, and it’s true! She’s a wonderful person and I can’t wait to see who she grows up to be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Colonial Williamsburg vacation

Every year, Minnesota schools have a short fall break in mid-October while the teachers' union has their annual conference. A lot of families like to take a family vacation during the break, and we are no exception! Last year we went to Chicago; this year Gramma Liisa, the girls, and I went to Colonial Williamsburg!

Many many pictures follow, with the trip narrative...

We got a VERY early start on Wednesday morning, leaving before 7:00 a.m.! The sunrise was really beautiful, though - not a perspective I'd seen before.

We landed in Richmond, VA, picked up a rental car, and were off to Williamsburg! We didn't have much in the way of plans... it'd been a long travel day, and the girls had been very patient which meant they had a lot of pent-up squirrely energy to get out. So first thing we did was to go swimming at the hotel!

This is a favorite activity on any trip!

After swimming, we went to get dressed so we could go to dinner, and guess what... SOMEONE forgot to pack Maisie's clothes!! (it was me) All she had in her backpack was swimsuit, pjs, socks, and underwear! So she put back on the clothes she'd worn before, and we went to dinner... with a stop along the way at a nearby outlet mall that had a Children's Place store. Oops!

Thursday morning, it was off to Williamsburg! They had a costume rental place at the main visitor's center, so of course the girls needed to rent colonial costumes.

People took their pictures all day, which was really funny... their footwear was totally not period.

The Colonial part of Williamsburg is about six blocks long and three blocks wide, right in the middle of the town. We walked around it all morning, with the girls playing a scavenger hunt game that led us through different houses, stores, and all kinds of places. The weather was beautiful on Thursday - sunny and mid-60s. Perfect!

These pictures are from the magazine...

box of sabers!

There was a town square outside the magazine, where these two people started playing some really fun music. That's the courthouse in the background.

We took a tour of the George Whythe (pronounced "with") House, which General Washington used as his headquarters during the Revolution. Here's his bedroom!

You can see Washington's red saddle, towards the rear of the room on the left.

George Whythe taught Thomas Jefferson to read law in this room

He then went on to found the law school at William and Mary. It was amazing to see these rooms... some of the houses are partially or fully reconstructed, but many of them are original, down to the floorboards.

We also took a "tour" of the jail, which wasn't quite as spooky as we'd thought it might be. We held shackles and manacles, and talked about the court process. We then went into the jailer's house, which was quite nice. The interpreter talked about how most of the people of Virginia at the time would live in one room with their whole family, maybe 8-10 people, with dirt floors and log walls, so to be a jailer and have the housing as part of your job was quite a coveted position, even though it meant literally living with prisoners, with cells in the attic and basement and your family in the middle.

We didn't get to see the cells that were downstairs (men) or upstairs (women), but we did get to see the ones out back. Some were for particularly violent offenders, and others like this one

were for debtors. The interpreter said "It's not illegal to owe money, but it is illegal not to pay it back. So we come out and hold you, take your things, and then sell them to pay off your debts. Once your debts are paid... or your things are gone... you're free to go."

So after a long day with much walking...

It was back to the hotel for more swimming, then dinner and bedtime. Friday was another full day!

We started off at the "sanitarium," which began with this view of a patient's cell. (Note the shackles embedded in the wall.)

Maisie and Ella quickly said "I don't like this place!" so we headed to the connected colonial folk art museum, which we all LOVED. The art was great! This is a jar of SAND!

"From Nannie to Nellie" the artist who made these would sell them for a few dollars each. Can you imagine the patience??

I just loved this jug... the sun looks so chill.

Maisie liked this guy.

It had been a rainy morning, but by the time we were done with the art museum, the sun came out! So we wandered back to the colonial village. We took a tour of the Richmond house, which was owned by Payton Richmond, President of the first and second Continental Congresses, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and owner of 27 slaves. It was a difficult discussion - the interpreter spent a lot of time inviting us to imagine how it would feel to be a slave - forced to stand and serve for hours, while Richmond talked to his friends of freedom... listening to people like Patrick Henry say they'd rather die free than live a slave... knowing that at any time,  you could be sold away from your family. We toured the house, and saw the contrast between the sumptuous beds Richmond and his family slept in, and the pallets for slaves in the hall. It was not fun - at the end, poor Maisie burst into tears - but I think it was important, and I'm glad we went on that tour.

Afterwards, we got a little snack and then walked around a bit, over to the courthouse. It was one big room with two smaller rooms, one on each side, for jury deliberations, witnesses, and the like. It was funny - technology aside, it wasn't really all that different from a modern courtroom!

Outside, the girls had to try out the stocks.

(different from a modern courthouse)

We also visited the weavers' house, and the girls got to try their hands at carding wool and picking cotton. It was a favorite stop!

A few blocks away is a pedestrian mall with shopping, so we wandered over there for dinner and souvenirs.

Then back to the colonial part...

Maisie in front of the one-room courthouse
For one of our favorite activities of the trip... the ghost tour!!! Ella got to help carry the guide's lantern from the first stop to the second...

Immediately after this picture was taken, though, Ella said she was too creeped out! So she and Gramma Liisa went back to a Barnes & Noble a few blocks away to read books and enjoy a treat. Maisie and I continued on the tour and heard some of the best ghost stories we've ever heard! It was a great way to cap off our trip.

Saturday morning, it was back to the airport in Richmond. After a brief layover in Chicago...

where we had pizza, because hello, we were in Chicago...

it was back home to Minneapolis. Everyone had a great time, and we were happy to be home having learned a lot about colonial times! (Myself included!)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

State Fair State Fair State Fair

So yeah, I love the State Fair! It's a highlight of the summer for me - I try to go a couple different times, usually with the girls, with my mom, with my sister and Dylan... and sometimes by myself or with a friend, too. All the times I go are different experiences for me - depending on who I'm with it can be a whirlwind of rides, taking time to really look at the creative activities, watching lambs be born and chicks hatch, eating your weight in fried food, dancing to live music... there are so many things to do, and I love them all.

This year I had the good fortune to go four times! The first day was the first Saturday of the Fair, just me and the girls.

The first thing we had to do - of course - was to find Ella's blue ribbon!

Both girls had entries in the Creative Activities competition this year - Ella for a color photograph, and Maisie for a mixed-media poster she made with Dylan. Ella won first prize! She got a blue ribbon and $6. The photograph is a tiny blue damselfly on a day lily leaf. You can't quite see it in the picture above, but it's framed perfectly, right in the middle in the big splash of sun.

After that, there was some food (roasted corn, pizza, corn dogs, root beer) followed by the kids' favorite part... rides! We started out with the turbo jump, where you are hitched to bungee cords and jump on a trampoline. Ella got up REALLY high.

 And Maisie managed to do a flip! Once she figured it out she was spinning away up there.

Then it was off to the Kidway! (Like the midway, but smaller rides for smaller people.)

Then, snack time!

Shaved ice for Maisie, and s'mores for Ella. Then back home for the time being.

On Monday I went to the fair with a friend, which was a lot of fun. Then on Wednesday after school, the girls and I returned with Grandma Liisa and her friend John! Highlights of this visit included the butterfly house, where Grandma was very popular...

and a stop by the KARE-11 (our local NBC affiliate) barn, which included a photo op place that looked like the set of The Voice!

Maisie loooooooves that show, so she was really excited to get a chance to be a Voice judge.

Our last trip to the fair was Sunday before Labor Day, with Auntie Laura and Dylan! We started with breakfast: a corn dog for Ella,

 and French toast with pop rocks for Maisie!

This was actually not the crazy sugar-bomb you'd think it'd be. The French toast itself was not too sweet, and then it had a tart berry sauce on top. It really balanced out the whipped cream and pop rocks!

We did all kinds of activities with Auntie Laura and Dylan, including checking out the crop art (and making some of our own), the river raft ride, and the haunted house!

We also took the skyride, and some silly selfies along the way - 

we revisited the Voice chair,

and snacked on the kids' very favorite food, cream cheese wontons.

So all in all, we had GREAT fun at the State Fair. Thank you Auntie Laura and Dylan, and Grandma and John, for coming to the fair with us! It's even more fun when you can share it with friends and family.

Can't wait for next year!