This year, Elise qualified for and chose to compete in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Junior Olympics is a huge, multi-sport 9 day event with over 12,000 amateur athletes competing in sports like swimming, track and field, gymnastics, jump rope, wrestling, field hockey, and karate. This was Elise's first time competing in a national level jump rope competition, and I think we were both excited and nervous as we donned our purple team tees and hit the road.
We had fun imagining what conversation led to this sight that we passed on the road.
"Honey! I told you to pack Junior's play structure from the backyard, remember?"
"Crap. There's no space in the truck. We'll just leave it here and buy a new play structure on Craigslist after we move."
"Um. No. Junior loves his play structure. Repack the truck and make space."
"Fine. Happy now?"
We got checked into the hotel, picked up credentials at the competition venue, had a nice dinner with friends, sat through a tense team meeting, and tried without much success to get a good night's sleep before the first day of competition.
Glitter very thoughtfully and seriously applied to hair as a group effort...
It was an intense four days of competition. Elise jumped in 3 singles events, 3 pairs events, 5 double dutch events and team show. She came away with 7th and 9th place finishes in double dutch power and double dutch single freestyle. She was thrilled to have two top 10 finishes. There was a lot of tough competition there.
The team had been hoping for a podium finish for their cool Beatles team show routine. They came in a disappointing 6th, but I still think they did a great job. It was a very creative routine. Elise struggled with this one all year with her breathing, so on a personal level, she was just thrilled to have it behind her and never have to jump it again!
Most nights, we hung out with the team,
but one night, Elise decided she had had enough togetherness and needed a break. The two of us took off to the coast and had a nice seafood dinner. It was good to have a little quiet mother/daughter time in the midst of all the chaos.
There was coloring and sleeping going on in the bleachers,
lots of silliness at the hotel,
and hugs during competition.
It was all bittersweet though. This was the last competition these kids will have together in purple as a team. Our team had a rough year and was actively imploding during this last competition of the season. We got the news yesterday that the team will be shutting its doors and will not exist next year. It leaves 40 kids without a jump rope home for next year. We are all scrambling to find other options. Unfortunately, jump rope isn't like soccer, gymnastics, or cheer where there are plenty of other leagues, gyms, or teams in the area. It has been a hard pill to swallow, and we have no idea where we will end up next year. My hope is that Elise will find a place to continue jumping to keep that big jump rope smile on her face. I'm not sure what we would do without it.
When other things in my life seem to be going to hell in a handbasket lately, at least my finances are improving. Over the weekend, I did some housecleaning and managed to find $102 in cash and a $70 Crate and Barrel gift certificate from 1998. Do you think Crate and Barrel can even accept a low tech paper gift certificate any more? I'm pretty certain I will fluster the cashier when I attempt to use it. Then, today, I logged on to our state treasury department website to search for unclaimed money. I had two listed - one for "less than $50" and one for "more than $50", so I have now claimed those and should have a check in the mail soon. I must have good financial karma right now to offset the crappy everything else karma. Maybe I need to go buy a lottery ticket and ask for a raise!
I asked Elise (my 13 year old) to write a guest post and share the pictures she took on her exciting trip to Costa Rica. You can read Part One here. -Ann
Day 5: Monteverde
Today we went to La Cruz Elementary School. It was very cool. There were only 9 kids which I thought was kind of strange, but it was kindergarten through fifth grade. They did a little dance for us which was kind of cool. For the last dance, they made us participate which was really, really fun. We donated things, so I took jump ropes and some school supplies. I forgot to bring my jump rope, so I didn't show them anything.
After the school visit, we went to plant some trees, and that was lots of fun. We named ours Felicia Leaf Le Weave III. The person who was in charge of everything liked our name so much that he recorded all of us saying it.
I didn't take any pictures at the school or tree planting, but my teachers posted some great pictures here.
After that, we went to zip lining, and I was terrified, absolutely terrified. We did four or five by ourselves and another by ourselves that was kind of long. Then we did two or three with a partner. They were really, really long. One was a mile long. It was so, so cool. We got to see all of the mountains and the valleys, but we had to hike up there. I managed to take a video on one of the long ones that I did with a partner, but my camera battery died halfway through.
After that, the rest of the people went horseback riding, but I'm allergic to horses. I went back to the hotel and blocked out the rest of the world with my headphones and colored on graph paper.
Day 6: Pacific Coast
This morning, we packed up and went to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. On our way there, we went on a bridge that overlooked a bunch of crocodiles. We got to take some cool pictures of them. Our tour guide, Erik, said that the reason there were so many crocodiles was because they used to be able to feed the crocodiles, so they keep coming back to that spot expecting to be fed.
We went on a crocodile tour, and it was really cool. We got to see lots of different crocodiles. One was 16 feet long! They call it Osama Bin Laden because of his ability to hide. We saw so many different birds, and I got a really good picture of the macaws.
the boat we were on for the crocodile tour
We went on a nature walk and saw lots of butterflies. I was able to get some good pictures of the butterflies and the chrysalises. On the walk, we were able to see snakes, frogs, spiders, and toads, but they were all behind glass.
cool flowers that attract pollinators
blue morpho butterfly
We went on a ariel tram tour through the rain forest. It was really cool because I was at the very front, so I got to see everything. Also, there was a zip line that was going right above us, so we were able to see all the people doing that. We saw a little waterfall through the trees.
view from the tram
Day 7: Manuel Antonio National Park, Campos
Today we had burnt pancakes, fruit, and sausage and potatoes that I really, really liked. I gave up eating rice and beans. We walked to the beach, and we saw some monkeys and sloths, and then we arrived at the beautiful ocean! It was so cool. The water was just right, wasn't too cold, wasn't too hot. It was so clear and blue and green. The monkeys tried to steal my food and some of my friends' food, but they didn't succeed. It was really, really hot out, and I kind of forgot to reapply sunscreen. When I got back to the hotel, I figured out was really, really burnt.
I didn't take my camera to the beach, but there are some beautiful pictures on my teachers' blog post here.
Day 8: Sarchi and San Jose
We started heading back to San Jose, but we stopped in a town called Sarchi. Sarchi is famous for its ox carts and hand painted stuff. We got to see where they make things with the water wheel and how powerful that is. We also got to see the process of how they make the paint. It was really, really, really cool.
world's largest ox cart
cathedral in Sarchi
The folklore night was really cool. We got to see a traditional dance with the big skirts. We also saw belly dancing which was really too much for me. Then we got to do dancing. The food was really good. We had rice and beans. Again. We had some kind of chicken and coconut sugar balls for dessert. They were really good! I think it went on too long because we had to get up at 3 a.m. to go to the airport. We stayed until 9:30, and that was not OK with me.
view of San Jose from folklore night
Day 9: Travel day back home
We got up at 3:00 and had a bag breakfast of peanut butter and jelly. You can't bag rice and beans. Customs was really, really, really long. It was nice getting back to where we can read the signs. I now have a new appreciation for other cultures and people who come to America with little English. I had a lot of fun. It was such a great experience, and I am so glad I could go.
This was such an amazing experience for Elise. Two teachers at her school organized this trip with EF Educational Tours. I'm thrilled that they took that initiative and were willing to travel with a bunch of middle school age kids. It sounds a bit daunting to me! EF did a wonderful job integrating education, fun, Costa Rican culture, physical activities, and sightseeing. Despite growing a bit weary of rice and beans at every meal, Elise loved every minute of the trip. She has made memories to last a lifetime.
I asked Elise (my 13 year old) to write a guest post and share the pictures she took on her exciting trip to Costa Rica. Enjoy! -Ann
Day 1: Travel to San Jose, Costa Rica
We got up really, really super early in the morning to get to the airport, and we got to Costa Rica around lunch time. Then we went to our hotel and got our rooms. We decided to take a walk through downtown San Jose to get to a lunch spot. It was really cool to see all the different stores and people and a different culture. Lots of the stores looked about the same. It was very, very smelly. There were people selling things on the street that were illegal, so it was very, very different from North Carolina. It was a good day!
not happy about the early morning flight
downtown San Jose
Inside a cathedral
Day 2: Britt Coffee Plantation and Poas National Volcano Park
We got up at 6:00 in the morning to have breakfast at 7:00. Then we went to the Britt Coffee Plantation. We learned how they grow coffee, how long it takes to grow the coffee beans, and that they pick the beans by hand, so they only get the ripe ones. If you do it by machine, the machine gets all the beans, not just the ones that are ripe.
Gunner modeling the waist basket used to pick beans
Tara and Gunner tasting the coffee
Then we went to the volcano. It was kind of chilly, and we had to hike up to get there. We saw a salamander. When we got to the top, it was really cloudy, so all we could see was a white cloud. We didn't get a chance to see the crater, but the postcards of it looked really cool. The sulfur smelled like rotten eggs. We stopped to see the La Paz waterfall. It was raining. Then we checked into our next hotel in La Fortuna.
view of the crater of the volcano
What we hoped to see
volcano selfie with Skylar
La Paz Waterfall
Day 3: La Fortuna
We went kayaking in Lake Arenal near the Arenal Volcano. Kayaking was really fun. I did it with my partner Dhivya, and we were so bad! We bumped into the instructor who was trying to help us go somewhere. When we got to the clearing, Dhivya didn't want to get out of the kayak, but I tipped us over, so we had to get out! Everyone was swimming around and talking, and it was a lot of fun! We held on to one of the people's kayaks who was still in, and he pulled us around. Then we got back on and had a long trek back. It was very tiring.
Then we went to the La Fortuna waterfall. It was so pretty! The hike was gorgeous but hard. When we got there, we got to take pictures by the rocks by the waterfall, and we got to swim. Swimming was lots of fun because we made it a challenge to see how far on the rocks we could get. We didn't get very far, but it was still fun to see how far we could get. It was a looonnnnggg hike back to the top which we did in the rain.
La Fortuna waterfall
After that, we went to Baldi Hot Springs. It was really cool to see how they set up their hot springs. They have bars in some of them. In one of them there was a giant slide that we weren't allowed to go on. Paige and I stuck together and tried to find one that was just the right temperature. We finally found one. Unfortunately, it was the one with the slide which was very crowded, so we left. We stayed there for two hours which for me was way too long because the sulfur was messing with me.
pretty views out the bus window
The dinner at the hotel was spaghetti, and that was probably my favorite dinner of the entire trip. The sauce had kind of a sweet tangy flavor.... and it was not rice and beans. I was getting really, really tired of rice and beans. We had rice and beans for breakfast that morning and lunch.
Day 4: Monteverde
Our hotel was Hotel Don Taco, and we checked in just in time for lunch. I really liked that hotel. We had a green bean omelet for lunch which was really good. I liked it. And we had rice and beans. The bathroom door wasn't really a door. It was an accordion door that was broken. That wasn't fun. After lunch, we went to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest for a nature walk. It was so pretty. We didn't see any animals which kind of made me mad.
Santa Elena Cloud Forest
Read Part Two here.
Today was the first day of school.
Elise headed off to eighth grade, and in typical eighth grade fashion, she decided the dress code rules did not apply to her. When I said, "Um... really? spaghetti straps and bra straps showing?" She said, "Oh I have a T-shirt in my backpack in case I get in trouble." Um. No. We are not starting off a new year with a dress code violation. I sent her back in to change. She seemed to have a great first day and likes her teachers so far.
Next we had nervous Nina heading off to middle school for the first time. Sixth grade is kind of a big deal, and thankfully, she survived. She only ended up in the wrong classroom once.
Then we have Addison...
who was clearly not at all nervous about second grade.
She and I are on our own now in the mornings. Nina was usually the one who kept us on track to make the bus on time, so it was no big surprise when we missed the bus this morning. As I was driving to school, it occurred to me that this was the first time in nine years of school that my kids have not taken the bus on the first day. Even in kindergarten, we always hustled them on to the bus, their backpacks weighted down with ten tons of school supplies. I drove along wondering how long the carpool line would be, assuming that many parents probably drive on the first day. Then, completely bewildered, I pulled up to a perfectly empty carpool line. It confused me until I looked over and saw the packed parking lot. Parents were walking kids into the building in droves. I briefly wondered, "Should I get out and walk her in? Is that what I am expected to do?" I quickly pushed that thought out of my head though. If she is independent enough to get off of a school bus and find her classroom on the first day, then she can get out of my car and find her way as well. With that, I dropped her off as the one lone carpool kid of the day. I haven't decided if that makes me a bad mom for neglecting my first day of school parental duties or a really great mom for encouraging my child to be independent. I'm just going to go with the latter... makes me feel better. Don't judge.
Addison had a great day, and wouldn't you know... she found her classroom, all by herself.