Natalie Turns 8…Chicago Anyone?


Our little girl Natalie turned 8 years old last week. As promised, to celebrate, the girls went on a road trip to the Windy City. The ultimate destination was the American Girl Place. Natalie and her best friend Brooklyn had been looking forward to the adventure for many months. They had been hording cash in order to purchase the ultimate desires.l

On Friday morning, Shelley, Natalie, Tina and Brooklyn all heading north toward Meca.

This is Shelley finally posting….We started the drive to the frozen tundra of Chicago around 10:30 on Friday.  Along the way we heard lots of giggling and the asking of “are we there yet?” every hour or so.  All in all it was a pleasant car ride with lots of good sugary snacks!  We crossed the big bridge and saw the huge building of the city in front of us and the girls were in awe!  They were even more excited when we were driving through downtown to find our hotel.

We found the hotel and went inside to check in.  While we were waiting the girls were impressed by our accomodations for the weekend.  They thought the lobby was pretty fancy.  We had prebooked our room on and had called earlier in the day to request 2 beds.  Our room was on the 36th floor…the girls were psyched!  The room was beautiful with a huge bathroom that had a walk in shower and a stunning view of Lake Michigan.  Unfortunately it only had one bed.  I went down to change the rooms.  The next room was on the 17th floor…bummer…still only 1 bed though…We were getting frustrated at this point and on the third try we finally got what we needed….unfortunately it was your typical average room…no fancy bathrooms or fantastic views.  Still we would survive.

We all got ready to go to our “secret” fancy dinner.  We left the hotel and walked about 3 blocks to the American Girl Place MegaStore.  It is 2 full stories of nothing but AG!  Talk about heaven.  The girls were amazed and immediately pointing out all the things they couldn’t wait to buy.  We looked around the store for about an hour and made lists of all the items the girls wanted (mine and Tina’s strategy to minimize crying at the register).  Then they were getting hungry…it was almost dinner time…they had no idea that we were having dinner at AG Place.  When we went upstairs and stood at the doors the girls began begging us to go to dinner.  When we said we were there they were completely shocked.  Natalie just kept saying “I can’t believe this”.  The sheer joy on their faces was so worth the money that we spent.

Dinner was excellent…great food and very fancy.  The dolls had their own seats and dishes!  As the evening grew to a close there were many girls getting birthday cakes….well, when booking I had said no to this option…silly mama!  Tina slyly went to the hostess stand and I quickly followed suit…we were able to get the cake and ice cream delivered.  Natalie was at the point of tears because she thought they were not going to get a cake…then they did…evening saved!

After dinner we went back to the store and made off with our purchases.  Natalie likes all the “stuff” to go with the dolls, she purchased a concession stand, a picnic set, a pet dog and the gymnastics outfit.  Brooklyn prefers the clothes and she bought several outfits and had Julie’s ears pierced! (yes they do that).  We hauled our loot back to the hotel and turned in early…we were exhausted.

We woke the next morning ready for breakfast…we trolled upstairs the the Skyy Lounge on the 40th floor and ate what we thought was our free continental breakfast….until the bill came that is.  The girls of course loved it because they were treated like princess and drank apple juice from champagne glasses….you can imagine the cost!  After breakfast we went to the Hancock building, the girls were amazed by the view.  We then braved the public transportation (bus) and you would have thought we were in a limo!  They both had to stand and hold the bars on the way to the aquarium.  We visited the Shedd Aquarium and then ventured on to the Planetarium…both nice places.  We then headed back to Michigan Avenue to wander the shops.  We ordered pizza for carry out and ate it on our beds that night…something we would never do at home!

Sunday was our last day.  We awoke early and decided for a cheaper breakfast at the Corner Bakery.  It was snowy and windy outside…and very, very cold.  After breakfast we headed toward Garrett Popcorn (a mere 12 blocks away)….did I mention it was snowy, windy and cold?  We finally made it…almost frozen solid and my heart sank…it was closed.  We headed to a Borders books to warm up and bide our time.  We finally picked up our popcorn and needed to head back to AG one more time…two blocks into the walk and I was almost frozen…we hailed a taxi (another highlight of the trip) and headed to AG and then the hotel to check out.

I apologize for the length of this post but we did a ton!  The girls are already planning next year’s trip back to the windy city!

Mia and Josephina can now have teaMia and Josephina can now have tea
Mia, Natalie, and Josephina looking at the menuMia, Natalie, and Josephina looking at the menu
Nice table decorationsNice table decorations
Listening to the audio tourListening to the audio tour
Brooklyn and Natalie at the Adler Planetarium - ChicagoBrooklyn and Natalie at the Adler Planetarium – Chicago
Natalie in the Lego Store - ChicagoNatalie in the Lego Store – Chicago

Valentine Piñata


This post is a few weeks late, but I got a real kick out of Eli’s class during their Valentine party on 02/13/09. Someone brought in a heart shaped piñata. Unfortunately, their was no easy place to hang the piñata. I found a broom and decided to tie the heart to the end and hold it up for the kids to take a whack. The facial expressions were worth the price of admission. Check out the following individual shots for some quick laughs.


Goodridge Elementary Science Project


On Friday (02/19/09)  Natalie was awarded 1st place among 2nd grade entries in the 2009 Goodridge science fair. The project was a study to determine kids M&M color preference. Then compare the likes to see if Mars packs the candy to match the kids preference.

The project started almost a month ago with a little research on the web to find age appropriate science projects. Natalie narrowed down the selection between two projects. She was leaning towards the  experiment that studied meteorites hitting the earth. It used marbles and sand. After a little discussion, it seemed that the M&M project would be much easier to manage between the data collection and the display. 

The beginning of the project started with the great M&M count. Natalie started with 5 small bags of plain M&Ms, 2 medium bags of Peanut M&Ms, and 2 medium bags of Peanut Butter M&Ms. Each bag was sorted into seperate bowls by one of the six colors (blue, green, red, yellow, brown, or orange). Once separated, she counted the number of each M&M and recorded the results. 


The next step was to take a poll of the 2nd grade students at Goodridge. Natalie went to school and collected votes about which color M&M was their favorite. She collected and recorded the data. 


Natalie concluded that based on her collected data that the M&Ms are not packed to match the preference shown by the kids in Goodridge Elementary. The kids picked red and blue as their favorites, yet the M&M packages seemed to not favor a specific color. 

Natalie & Eli seperating M&M and counting colors.Natalie & Eli seperating M&M and counting colors.
Natalie's 2nd grade science project.Natalie’s 2nd grade science project.
Natalie & Dad posing in front of project board.Natalie & Dad posing in front of project board.
1st place ribbon for 2nd grade.1st place ribbon for 2nd grade.

KC’s Sweetheart Spectacular


Today, Sunday (02/15/09) was the third competition, KC’s Sweetheart Spectacular, attended by the Level 3 team from 5-Star Gymnastics this season. The meet was held in Danville, KY at KC’s Gymnastics. Given the early start time for the level 3 team of 7:45, we drove down on Saturday evening  and stay in a hotel close to the location. 

During the early morning preparation prior to the competition, Natalie set a goal for herself. She wanted to score a least a 9 on every event. Shelley and I both told her to do her best and worry about just focusing on each routine and not the score.

The team started out on floor exercise, Natalie went last in the rotation. She had a very nice routine with only a few minor errors. She scored a 9.1 – she was smiling from ear to ear.

The next event was the vault. Natalie was placed in the middle of the rotation. Her first vault was very clean with good height and a stuck landing. The next vault was not a clean and the landing had a considerable step. The better of the two runs earned her a 9.3 (her highest event score this season). So far 2 for 2, now on to the dreaded uneven bars.

The last competition showed how unforgiving the bars can be with an average team score of 7.6 out of 10. Falls and lack of concentration plagued the whole team. Natalie went in the middle of the rotation and delivered the best bar routine that I have seen her perform. She got a 9.4 (now her highest score of season). The bars will not beat the 5 Star team today. They averaged an 8.8. 

On to the final event, balance beam. Natalie was again last in the rotation. The team proceeded to move throughout the rotation, but this event was producing lower scores. It appears this judge is being more critical or the girls are just running out of gas. Prior to Natalie’s start, Shelley had to change locations within the crowd in order to relieve her anxiety and to put some distance between her and Natalie’s distracted eyes. As Natalie approached the beam, nobody had scored above an 8.7. Yikes! This does not bode well for maintaining the run of 9s today. She started with a slight bobble on the mount and my heart sank. She recovered and proceeded on through the routine. It was without major issue, but as she ended, Shelley and I looked at each other in agreement…not a 9. However, we were surprised to see that the judge disagreed with our sub 9 assessment. Natalie scored a 9.0. She could hardly contain herself. She was jumping and smiling in amazement. 

On to the awards ceremony. Natalie and her best friend Brooklyn are both classified in the 8 JR age group. There were only 5 girls competing in this specific age category. Natalie placed 2nd in every event with Brooklyn taking 1st in the uneven bars. After the individual events were awarded, the all around was next. The announcer proceeded to call out the names for the 5 positions. Brooklyn placed 3rd and Natalie was visibly excited for her best friend’s win. Then we all held our breath as the 2nd position was called…it was not Natalie. As she realized that her name was not called for 2nd place, she placed her hands over her mouth in order to cover the gasp. She was beaming! 

The rest of the awards were handed out for the 8Sr, 9, and 10-13. Then the team awards. The 5 Star team placed 3rd with a 109.7. The 2nd place team scored a 110.1 and the 1st place team scored a 110.2. Very close among the top three team. Here is a recap of the scores of the entire level 3 5-Star team.


You can find videos of each of Natalie’s events: VaultBarsBalance beam, and Floor exercise.

Girls getting a little pep talk from coach TerriGirls getting a little pep talk from coach Terri
Brooklyn get 1st and Natalie gets 2nd on bars - LVL 3Brooklyn get 1st and Natalie gets 2nd on bars – LVL 3
Natalie get 2nd and Brooklyn get 3rd on floor - LVL 3Natalie get 2nd and Brooklyn get 3rd on floor – LVL 3
Natalie get 2nd and Brooklyn get 4th on beam - LVL 3Natalie get 2nd and Brooklyn get 4th on beam – LVL 3
Natalie get 1st and Brooklyn get 3rd in overall - LVL 3Natalie get 1st and Brooklyn get 3rd in overall – LVL 3
Natalie showing off her all blue (<9.0) ribbons - LVL 3Natalie showing off her all blue (<9.0) ribbons - LVL 3
Girls getting a little pep talk from coach TerriGirls getting a little pep talk from coach Terri
A little lunch celebration after the meet.A little lunch celebration after the meet.