Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dance Class

Riley started her first dance class today. Well, sort of her first one. Her preschool had dance classes, but they were very informal and she only did about 4 of those. She's been in music class before, but nothing else so we wanted to change things up. Perhaps dance, but we also thought about gymnastics and martial arts. I have to admit I was hesitant to go the dance route. I probably shouldn't have been as I have very fond memories of when I was in dance from age 3 - 7, but I think my memories have less to do with dance and more to do with what my dance teacher meant to me.

My parents divorced when I was three, the same time I started dance class. My teacher lived right around the corner and her dance studio was in her basement. I remember getting to her house early and occasionally she would let me into her living room where she had this glass case under her keyboard/piano thingy. It was a scene of some sort and there was a light that you could turn on. I know it doesn't sounds very exciting (and I haven't described it well), but for me it was the coolest thing ever and I felt like I was the only girl that she let play with it.

My dance teacher also helped make my recital costumes since my dad was, well, a single dad and had little skills in the way of sewing (although my dad did teach me how to darn socks with a needle, thread, and a light bulb). And one year on my birthday, I remember walking past her house on the way to my bus stop and seeing a huge sign in the window that said "Happy Birthday, Elizabeth" (Elizabeth is my first name. I was once somewhat equally called Elizabeth and Jo, and eventually Jo won out.) I felt so special that day.

I'm third from the right

That's me on the far right.

Anyway, dance sits in my memory for a different reason than it might be for others. I only stopped going to dance class because my teacher got sick. Cancer, if I recall correctly. We moved when I was 9, but I moved back to the same neighborhood when I was 18 and always think of her when I walk past her house.

My reason I was hesitant for Riley? I see so many mom's proudly showing off their daughters (rightly so) on Facebook with pictures of their dance recitals, but these young girls have a ton of make up on. It just doesn't seem right to me. I mean, I'm comfortable with older girls, but I think that would have to be over 12 or 13. But younger? It just weird me out. In fact, I wanted to avoid dance so I would never be faced with having to say 'no' to make up when everyone else was wearing it, or deciding to let her do it so she didn't have to be the odd one out. It just seems dance has become something different than when I was a kid . I mean, look at us above... our ballet shoes were all different colors, and I'm pretty sure those are fancified pajamas we are wearing, but it was good. I remember feeling special that day and having fun.

In the end, Jesse got the ball rolling and signed Riley up for dance at a local company (which was highly recommended by neighbors on NextDoor). We signed her up in July and then had to wait until September for the class to start. Jesse said that when he signed up he paid a fee for the outfits. I put it out of my head until a couple days before the class started when I decided to double check and that's when I found out the extra he paid would be for the recital outfit, but that we still needed ballet and tap shoes, a leotard, and tights. Yikes. I scrambled and got everything together. Weirdly, while Riley was getting her tap shoes sized at the store I actually teared up a little. Not sure why, but guessing it's because I know that she will love dance. I knew it would make her so happy and I love making my girl happy.

Had to try everything on when we got home to show dad

So we headed off to dance class with all the other 3 and 4 year olds. All of us parents hovering around the window looking into the studio, afraid to sit down or look away in case we missed anything. Except that one lady who obviously had been there before. She brazenly sat down and read a book. Read a book! I know that might be me in the future, but I was willing to look like the newbie mom staring away at the window in case Riley peaked over or did something super cute.

And then we went home. She said her favorite part was when they danced with streamers and that she wanted to go back next week. We took a few more picture outside, ate some dinner, took a bath, and then she crashed. Such a big, exciting day for this girl. Dancing.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Preschool and Party Time

I feel like I should have a better title for this post since it includes Riley's first day of school and a friend's 10 year anniversary, but since there really isn't a single theme it's more of a this and that sort of post.

~ Riley started a new year of preschool and is now in the YBK (year before kindergarten) room. She has new teachers and some new classmates, but a handful of her friends from her last class moved with her so I think that helps. She mentioned the other day that she misses her old class and she shared that she saw her former favorite teacher, Debbie, on the playground and relayed "Debbie, loves me".

Hey mom, take a picture of me over here.

Her new class has already been preparing the kid's for moving into kindergarten by doing things like having them eat lunch in the cafeteria. She's adjusting to the change well and several days in she already received two birthday party invites.

At times this doesn't feel like such a big deal since she's still technically in pre-school, but then she says or does something and I can't help but think that this time next year she will be getting on a bus by herself. She'll have so much more responsibility and she seems impossibly young for that. I trust that she can do it - even in the last few months it seems that she had matured in leaps and bounds, but you know, she's my little girl. Anyhoo, I'm jumping ahead as we still have an entire year before kindergarten starts. 

~ My friend, Josie, and her family have been in a lot of my posts lately which is sort of weird since she and I can never get our schedules aligned to hang out, but we just had another opportunity to get together to celebrate her 10 year wedding anniversary on Saturday.

Josie and I met about 25 years ago and were really close for quite awhile. We even lived together for 9 years (strange to think that this is longer than Jesse and I have lived together). We bought our first houses within a week of each other and had our first child within 6 months of each other (which was also noteworthy since we were both in our late 30's). We hadn't been hanging out all that much when she reached out to me 10 years ago to be her maid of honor, but our friendship picked up right where it always was. Love friendships that can do that.

Josie and Rob decided to renew their vows and had a small gathering next to Nicollet Island Pavilion (where they were married), and then had a luau themed party later in the day at The Lodge (they honeymooned in Hawaii). Another one of our former roommates, Tracy, (who was her matron of honor) was also able to attend.

Tracy, Josie, me

Josie had a friend photographing the day, but so was Jesse and everyone else because... phones, you know. I felt bad for the photographer friend since I knew we were likely all looking at different cameras.

Only picture I found where it appears we were all looking in the same direction.

There were a lot of little girls there so Riley was fully entertained and surprisingly kept her white outfit clean even though they were running around in the dirt and grass.

Josie's wedding was 1920's themed and was pretty huge. I always wanted to have a small intimate wedding for myself (which I did and loved), but I did get the experience of helping to organize a big wedding. It was fun, but so glad I didn't have to do that for mine. Anyhoo, about a week before the vow renewals Josie asked that we try to find red dresses in the 1920's style, if possible. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. The morning of the renewal I was digging in my closet and found this old red and black dress, and you can't really see it here, but it totally had a 1920's style to it. Sweet. Not sure why I even still have this dress, but glad I hung on to it. 

I can't seem to find any pictures from the wedding ceremony 10 years ago, but I did find some from the after reception party at Nye's so you can see our wedding attire. Here Jennie and I are wearing the guy's hats. Fun fact: almost a year later I cropped this picture and used it as a profile picture on Match wouldn't let me use it as my main picture since it violated some rule they had (hat, maybe?) and through that profile I met my husband.

Ok, back to the vow renewal. Josie and Rob gathered some of their friends and family and basically said a few words about each other and marriage. Josie was making a funny face in so many of the pictures we took, but it was just her trying to keep it together when Rob was talking about their relationship and when they met. It was very sweet.

These two were three or something when they were in the wedding.

Later that evening Riley and I headed to the party while Jesse stayed at home. We arrived just before food was served - shredded pork, fruit, beans, baked mac and cheese... Riley got to see her first pig's head which was pretty amazing to her. Riley and Olivia stopped to eat, but were mostly chasing each other around playing. At one point I gave Riley my point and shoot camera and she and Olivia took pictures of the party.

Important to get that food shot. (Also, she thought I was drinking lemon juice. Apparently, I don't drink around her much.)

Also, must show some of the decorations since it was luau themed.

Can't forget to get a picture of the crowd.

And babies... who doesn't love babies?

Better get a picture of mom since she takes so many of me.

And can't forget Ellie...

or Olivia... lol.

Olivia, take my picture. (Oh geez. I'm locking her away from the boys until she's 35.)

And finally, I have to get a picture of our feet like mom and dad always make me do.

I'll spare you the gazillion blurry photos. Eventually, there was some fighting over the camera so that was the end of that. Riley and Olivia went on to play something else before we ate some of the most delicious cake ever (and I'm not really a cake person). Surprisingly, we left without any issues. It was way past Riley's bedtime and she wanted more cake, but instead she asked Olivia to have a sleep over some time, told me how good she was that day, and we headed home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Renaissance Festival 2014

Fresh off a day at the State Fair we decided to check out the Renaissance Festival. We actually went a couple days later, but I was still feeling pretty beat from the State Fair. Unlike the State Fair, this was a planned event for us this summer. We thought Riley would really enjoy it since you often find princesses and such walking around here. Plus, my in-laws live nearby so we made it a group event.

We headed out early and met my in-laws there. Each weekend has a theme and this one revolved around Fairies and belly dancing. Jesse was slightly disappointed by it's non-manly theme, but  this was perfect for Riley. It was fun to expose Riley the Renaissance Festival and how different it is from the State Fair.

Riley scored with a few items at the Festival (a ring, a headdress thingy, some gems...), but we did not get a dress which is my one regret. Seems like a good excuse to go next year.

Oh Renaissance Festival - I wouldn't expect anything less from you.

Favorite sight of the day for Riley was Mermaid Cove. Nothing too exciting here - three mermaids that didn't talk, but she was in AWE. AWE, I tell you. There was a picture opportunity where she would have to get close to the mermaid below, but she was a little hesitant to do so. However, she could not keep her eyes off the mermaid. The mermaid was also handing out gems which Riley would not let go of for the rest of the day.

She saw me raise my camera and totally posed.

Mom, can we spend all day staring at mermaids?

This tank combo has been my summer uniform and now that I see it from this angle I think it looks so trashy. Why did no one tell me? If only that faded tattoo I got when I was 18 was a little bigger it would complete the look. :/

My body was still beat from walking at the fair (me = old) and the night before I ended up with sore eyes, a migraine, nausea, and rotten gut. I felt like crap. I felt slightly better in the morning, and maybe should have stayed home, but wasn't going to miss this day. In the end I was ok - I didn't feel great, but I had a lot of fun. I was also really grateful when my mother in law offered to go on this rocking horse with Riley as I'm pretty sure this would have made me puke.

Who knew that Justin Bieber worked at the Renaissance Festival?

This made Jesse's day. Also, this turtle is about 20 years old.

The temperature this day was around 70 degree, but it felt so much hotter. I used to think that I seemingly only picked the hottest days to attend the Renaissance Festival, but I think it's just something about this area and walking around on dirt or something. My dark hair and the sun didn't mix so my scalp felt like it was cooking when standing it the direct sun. I know a pony can probably withstand more than me, but I felt bad for this guy who had no shade. Hope you're ok pony dude.

Oy, and the elephants... I don't really know how they feel about all this so I may just be attaching silly human emotions to them, but in one picture I took of an elephant he/she had such sad eyes that I couldn't bring myself to even post it. And yet, not to sound hypocritical, if I were in India or something I would probably totally ride on a elephant. Maybe. Anyhoo, my kid wanted nothing to do with these animals so I didn't have to make some conflicting decision about whether she should ride this or not. Also, not judging others who let their kids ride the elephant or pony - this is all my issue.

There were a bunch of places that sold fruit smoothies, but it turns out they were just slushies. Jesse and I decided to split one to help cool my burning head and it gave me the biggest frozen throat/chest I've ever had. Painful (but did help cool me down). Perhaps, I should have tried the wine smoothie instead (yes, they had those).

There was an area that was devoted to fairy stuff, although I wasn't entirely impressed as I thought there would be fairies running around. There were a bunch of fairy homes that you could vote on, but the best thing in this area was when a band started playing right next to me and then belly dancers showed up a few moments later. It was a fun show without a big crowd.

One of many fairy houses. I think a lot of these were made by 14 year olds which makes them even more impressive.

One of the things I love about the Renaissance Festival are the characters there and the comments they make. There are a lot of innuendos, but I don't think I really heard a lot of those this time - probably because this was the first time I brought a kid with me. Jesse got a Mr. Clean comment and my father in law had multiple comments about his hair. I mean, how could he not? Check out that hair.

About 12:30 Riley announced she wanted to go home. We decided to skip the Irish Cottage which we heard was totally worth checking out (next year!) and headed back to our car.

There aren't the best markers to remember where you parked your car. Actually, there are no markers and we didn't really do a great job of paying attention. Funny enough, the couple that parked next to use were leaving at the same time so we tried to find our cars together. For reference, we were parked less than halfway back in that picture and we arrived at 9 am. This lot was completely full, the long driveway was packed and there was a very long double lane down the highway when we left. My recommendation is go early.

Apparently, the Renaissance Festival may be moving in a couple years since there is silica sand and gravel mining pushing it out. Not sure if or where it will relocate, but since it's the second largest  Renaissance in the US I would hope that it will stick around. All I know is we have to go back next year to get that special princess dress for Riley.