Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We stayed at a big Doubletree hotel in Jersey that had an indoor and an outdoor pool. The kids danced around the lobby entertaining the other guests for several hours Friday night after their first 4-hour rehearsal. In the room, J wrote in her journal and we read a book together before changing our room to one that had a working A/C. 8am was the photo reshoot from last year. The 3 kids (out of us 6) who were on this team last year were up at 6:30, on the road by 7:30, and started getting photographed by 8am. In this shoot, the kids wore all white:

Another 4-hour rehearsal began at 10am. At 2pm, we moms took the kids for lunch at a cute little family restaurant near the dance studio. At 4pm they started learning their 3rd number and 4 1/2 hrs later we were back at the hotel having a quick dinner and watching the kids swim in the indoor pool. Ok, so they danced 8 hours on Saturday after a 2-hour photoshoot, and went swimming after dinner until 10:15pm. The energy these kids have is incredible.

We left at 8am for the 40-minute drive for this year's photo shoot. There had to be about 95 kids all dressed in camouflage and army stuff. The NYC skyline was right behind us and it was a gorgeous day. I took my own shots when I could:

The host studio was having a big barbecue, but our group decided to spend the day in the outdoor pool at the hotel. We sunbathed and swam for about 5 hours. The kids had such a fun time playing together all weekend and the moms got to laugh, and drink, and play too! Sunday night we walked over to a restaurant for dinner. All 13 of us doing some more laughing and bonding over tons of food.

On Monday morning I took all 6 of our dancers to the dance studio and got to relax for about 4 hrs. We met up with the kids again around 12:30pm and we got to see all 5 of their new numbers they'll be performing this season. Each number is about 4 minutes long, but they're performed in immediate succession, so it's actually like one continuous 20-minute routine. I got all choked up for a few minutes, just bursting with pride at the whole scene. This is what J lives for. Being selected for a team like this is such an honor for her. She can't wait til the first big performance!

B, K, and W enjoyed the time at my moms. They had a big barbecue on Saturday with a lot of people over and dipping in the pool. They went for breakfast, went to the beach, went shopping, and went to the movies also over the weekend. K got a new phone, B and W saw Shrek 3, and all of them got a few shades darker from the sun. I drove out there Monday afternoon to pick them up and was so happy to finally be home Monday night.

Today J has her vocal lesson, K needs to try on new pants for one of her recital numbers, and W will do some workbook - I picked up a few new ones he'll love. I need to spend most of this week organizing for the recital. Plus we have a few homeschool get-togethers as well. Another busy week is in store. Then J starts summer tech classes and preparation for the July Nationals in Virginia Beach. The kids can't wait.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's Friday and we're ready for our big weekend. J and I will be heading to Jersey this afternoon for the 4-day performance team rehearsal. She has 2 photoshoots (1 re-do from last year) and a big barbecue to go to also. We went shopping the other day and got new photoshoot clothes and new dance clothes. K got a new bathing suit for this weekend. She's going out to my mom's with B and W for the weekend. Mom opened the pool the other day so they're both excited. It's going to be around 90 degrees for the next two days, so the pool sounds great. I'm pretty sure they'll hit the mall and the beach at some point, too.

W is over a crucial hump with reading, so I'm confident he will be more fluent over the next few months. The main thing I worry about is him actually LIKING to read. He's not crazy about readalouds, really, and prefers not to read at all. I think a love of reading is so important as it opens up so much more of the world.

The girls' CAT-E test results cam back yesterday and I'm happy to say they both are well in the required range. The percentile report is laid out very nicely and right to the point with no confusing rambling. In addition to my regular annual assessment, there's a sentence at the bottom stating they scored above the 33rd %-ile. That's all there is too it. So now we're done testing for 2 whole years!

Oh and we finally bought a new camera card, so expect to see plenty of pictures from now on! Yay!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Day 2 was great too! J's group tap won PLATINUM and took First Place in the category. Her large group production number got X-TREME PLATINUM and won First Place in the category and a "Most Entertaining" award. We were out of there by 4:30pm and we went out to eat with my mom. Fabulous and fun day.

Yesterday we hung out at home during the day and J had dance at 4. K stayed there, too, and the kids got to have a relaxing time watching "Tap" with some snacks. Lots of pride floating around the studio about how well they performed over the weekend!

Today the plumber came over around 8:30am, fixed a leak, low pressure hot water, and the sink plug in the bathroom. Then, I brought J over to her vocal lesson at 11:30am. It was awesome. J is learning a lot. She's going to try out different songs and together they'll see which one feels the best to do at Nationals. The studio owner is excited about her singing, too. But she was even more excited about how well J did at the competition. She said now that she saw what J can really do, she's going to step things up a notch for her. I feel J just has the whole package - a "triple threat", as they say. I'm so glad for her that she gets to show what she can do, be recognized for her abilities, and have the opportunity to keep getting better and better.

I'm making tons of checklists for all the recital costumes. I think I'm up to 15 costumes now.

K - Musical Theater
K - Advanced Hip Hop
K - Finale
W - Musical Theater
W - Boys Hip Hop
W - Finale
J - Musical Theater
J - Advanced Hip Hop
J - Lyrical (Mondays)
J - Lyrical (Fridays)
J - Company Solo montage
J - Company Tap
J - Company Jazz
J - Company Production
J - Finale

Yeah, I definitely need a checklist.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We're back from Day 1 of the competition. J just had her solo today. She got PLATINUM and won First Place out of 13 competing in her category ("Junior Jazz Solo ages 10-12"). She also got 5th Place Overall for Title in the whole Junior Division (age 10-12 in all categories). Effing WOW!

It was a really long day. We got there at 12:30pm, there were like 130 numbers, and one award ceremony at 8pm. We're all exhausted. I'm so glad this one is so close to home. We'll be there at 9am tomorrow for the 2 group numbers she's doing (1 at 10am and the other at 12:30pm). I think awards are at 3ish.

W had his individual and group dance pictures today. He was in full hip-hop costume and was really cute posing. I can't wait to get them. K chose not to do dance pictures. I think I'm going to get all the kids done at Sears or something next month if the homeschool group doesn't do them. I like having at least a yearly shot of each kid.

I love this time of the year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The girls' tests took about 1.5 hrs total. The cert. teacher was wonderful, followed the testing directions perfectly, and the girls were comfortable with him. They both said the test was easy - I'd heard it was ridiculously easy from other moms. I called Seton (testing co.) this morning to make sure everything was in order and I'll mail everything later on today at the post office (certified). I was wide awake all night the other night, so I took advantage of the quiet time to work on the kids' 4th quarterlies, annual assessments, learning logs, and LOIs and IHIPs for next year. All done - woohoo.

On Monday we had our monthly Foreign Lands Club with the hs group. The country was Papua New Guinea. K and her friend did an oral report on "traditional clothing", and J and her friend did one on "indigenous people". There were about 9-10 reports altogether and then we all got to eat a big lunch of Papua NG food. We had veggies with coconut cream, baked sweet potatoes, scone biscuits, banana bread, root veg chips, coconut rice, grilled vegetables, mangoes, mango chutney, and a chocolate cake with the PNG flag on it, LOL. After lunch, the kids played together outside for a couple of hours. It was a beautiful day.

Today J was supposed to have her voice lesson at 11:30am, but she's had a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, and cough for a few days. All of us are dealing with colds and allergies this week. I get a cold that lasts 2 days, then it settles in my chest and I have bronchitis for about 2 weeks. I have been getting this same exact thing every year (sometimes 2x a year) since I was 14. The only difference is that the "cold" part used to last 7 days, now just 2.

We're gearing up for this weekend's competition. It's nice to do one so close to home (5 miles away). J has her solo Saturday at 4:30p and 2 groups Sunday at 10am and 12:30pm. I just need to call in to work for Saturday. I hate doing that. The following weekend is the performance team. We have to be there Friday at 4pm and over 4 days, the kids have a total of 20 hours of dance rehearsal and 2 photoshoots. I'll be going with J alone - B, K, and W will spend that weekend at my mom's house. It's better since they would be bored to death in NJ with us. About 5 of us moms booked the same hotel so we should all have a great time together. Definitely relaxing for me, lol.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wednesday, the girls went to an hour-long microscope study class at the Science Museum of Long Island. They learned about the many parts of a compound microscope and looked at pond water drops. They also learned about protists and mezozoans. We hung out for a while afterward, the kids played, the parents yapped. Forgive me if I'm city-centric, but there's just something real odd about Long Island "museums". They're not like NYC museums. They're stuffy and musty and snobbish and pretty bare. Ok, I've only been to about 3 or 4, but jeez. Long Island parks are weird, too. There's too many rules involved. You never see age limits on NYC park areas. It's just understood (areas with baby swings and smaller equipment does not need a sign that says "This area for 7 and under only" on it). You never get reprimanded for playing in a certain areas - areas that are off limits (new lawn seed, equipment fixing, etc) are sectioned off temporarily with a fence in NYC. Long Island supermarkets are more expensive, Long Island gas is more expensive, and you can't just walk a block to the deli for a paper and some bagels in Long Island. It's waaaay to dark and scary to walk around in LI, and even if you wanted to walk around, there's nowhere to walk to (except a neighbor's house). So, sorry if I sound cynical. I'm a city girl and can only take the suburbs in extremely small doses.

Friday was Book Club and while the girls were there, W hung out with some other kids in the children's part of the library. He's kind of sweet on another hs girl (BR) who's almost 7. He gets all goofy and show-offy and made a point to ask me if she was coming that day. They played great together for about an hour. Then he disappeared on her when Book Club was over and the bigger boys came out. Isn't that a typical guy thing to do? LOL. After that was Game Day. W played a bit with BR, but mostly with his Brooklyn friend, F. All the kids had a fun time outside in the 80 degree weather with games and scooters.

Today was the big recital rehearsal. We got there at 10am and got home about 4. It went well, and I think we're all ready for the recital in a few weeks. J and her friend M are both in like 10 numbers so M's mom and I will have a dressing room right off the stage for the girls' quick changes. K and W were both naturals on stage today and B's band is doing 3 cover songs during the show (The Who, Elvis, and Queen songs). So this recital is a huge family affair. We found out we're definitely doing the Nationals in Virginia Beach this year - YAY! So exciting.

Tomorrow after the kids come home from religion class, we're heading out to my mom's for the day. The girls have to take a standardized test this year and according to the hs coordinator, we HAVE to have a certified teacher administer the test. Just another completely pointless hoop to jump through. I will never understand why she feels the need to enforce the NY regulations to the fullest extent. We're fine on our own, thank you. Homeschoolers aren't trusted with educating their own kids. The .00001% of parents who homeschool only to hide abuse, have seemingly ruined it for the rest of us. But, hey, I do believe the rulemakers will either decrease regulations in a few years when they see how homeschoolers blow the public schoolers away academically, socially, and emotionally --- or they'll increase the regulations because the utter success and wonderful-ness of homeschooling will threaten everything they stand for. And we can't have that now, can we.

So I found a NYS certified teacher and he will be administering the test to the girls tomorrow. Such a pain in the ass to coordinate some actual free time to do this. At least it should be over quickly and we can still have a nice Mother's Day. I'll mail back everything this week and I should have the scores soon after. Just in time for their 4th quarterlies. Thankfully the reporting for this year is almost over.

I'm looking forward to a great summer!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On Saturday I worked and B took the kids to our friends' dd's First Holy Communion party. It was at a nice restaurant a few blocks away from our house. They had a great time - DJ, dance floor, big Italian buffet, tons of kids. I was sad to miss it, but all my Saturdays off are slotted for the big dance stuff. It's ok - I happen to have the next 3 Saturdays off, lol! This weekend is the big recital rehearsal, May 19th is a local competition, and May 26th we'll be away at the weekend-long performance team rehearsal and photo-shoot. Sunday, the kids went to religion class and then I drove with the girls out to see a local play starring one of our homeschooled friends.

Yesterday we had a wonderful art class with the homeschool group. The theme was watercolors so we stopped at Michaels Craft to buy of new watercolor paints - we bought the flat tablet kind and the squeezy kind in a tube-, brushes, and watercolor paper (really thick and feels like homemade paper). The kids learned and practiced "wet-on-wet" painting, creating a landscape background first, then letting it dry while we ate lunch, and then going back to it to add things in the foreground. Everyone also brought a piece of fruit and made watercolor still-lifes learning about how to observe where the light hits it and how to convey that in your painting. Everyone's paintings were hung up on the wall and each child got to go up and talk about what they made. So cool.

Today J has her first voice lesson with a woman who just had a callback for a Broadway show last week! J is so excited and can't wait. She's hoping to be ready to sing at Nationals in July.

...We're back from the voice lesson. Wow. This is exactly what I was looking for. J took to her right away and feels comfortable enough to belt out a tune and do those funny sounding exercises without being self-conscious, lol. The vocal coach (VC) was surprised J was only 10 with that voice and foresaw a promising future for her. They worked on diction and articulation (...he thrusts his fists upon the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts...), breathing, scales, and several Broadway songs (Maybe, Castle on a Cloud, etc). I loved what I saw, J loved it, and we decided to set up weekly lessons. K and J will also both be auditioning for a kids Broadway cabaret in July (for an autumn show). So K wants to start lessons soon as well. VC is very close to home, reasonably priced, and totally knows what she's doing. Yay!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Monday we were all so tired from the weekend that we decided not to go to the homeschool group's Foreign Land event that day - except for J. She created a cool presentation on Thai music on Sunday when we got home - she even downloaded popular Thai songs into her ipod. One of the other hs moms picked her up to take her to the event. Tuesday we stayed home to clean and then left for dance at 4.

Wednesday we took a trip out to the Vanderbilt Planetarium and Museum out in Centerport, Long Island. The 4th-8th grade homeschoolers in our group got an hour long planetarium show. After that was over, we visited the Vanderbilt museum, which consists of the Vanderbilt mansion and marine museum. William Vanderbilt II had his summer mansion on Long Island and collected tons of things from the late 1800s to about the 1950s. There was a lot of stuffed animals he killed on safari, birds, butterflies, fish, shells, a room dedicated to his ships, a couple of shrunken heads, and a real mummy he brought back from Egypt. The kids liked it. I found it all very odd and somewhat disturbing. The mansion and surrounding land (right by the water) was so amazingly gorgeous and hard to imagine someone actually living there.

Yesterday I wanted to finish cleaning the whole apartment, but we stopped to watch a scary movie together. The kids always ask for the horror movies. I don't mind as long as I'm there with them and they close their eyes when I tell them to. They're good like that. It was fun. K cleaned her whole bedroom, W took a nap, and J had dance. She's learning some acro now and will start having a regular class on it in June. The studio owner is deciding where we're going for Nationals now. We've done both regionals that she's considering for Nationals now, and it's just a matter of choosing which competition we liked better overall.

W and I played an online reading game last night before bed. He typed in names for his characters, chose which bad guys he wanted, and a whole interactive story was created based on popular fairy tales. He's hit a plateau with his reading, but I can see that when I back off, his interest starts up again. J's been doing lots of writing - beautiful cursive - making lists, writing letters, journaling, and copying down poems I print out for her. She is choosing to watch lots of documentaries on tv lately, too. Both girls are starting to read up on Papua, New Guinea for the next Foreign Land hs event coming up in 2 weeks. I love homeschooling!