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Summer: The golden opportunity season!
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Last week on the blog, we talked about the sometimes-hidden challenges of summer, the stuff that can dash your expectations and stress you out when you should be having fun. On the flip side, we also want to mention the really cool opportunities that summer can bring you:

Cashola. This is a great time to find creative ways to earn your own, when you're hopefully not as busy with school, activities, and homework. Maybe you can seize the day and put your energy into a business. It's vacation season, so why not do some petsitting or housesitting? Little kids are out of school too, and parents might need more babysitting or mother's helper hours. If you're crafty or good at baking, there will probably plenty of outdoor events in your community where you can sell your wares. Or you can set up "shop" with a yard sale on a weekend morning. Then there's the old classic: everyone likes a lemonade stand on a hot day. For more ideas, check out IML's section on Making Money. With a little planning and effort, you could have a tidy sum saved up by September...and perhaps an established biz too!

Giving and getting. Maybe you want to earn community service hours for school. Maybe you want to explore something new, or maybe you just want to avoid the very real possibility of death by boredom. Whatever the reason, this could be a great time to get involved with a volunteer opportunity. You'll meet people, learn stuff, and feel extremely good about yourself and how you're making a difference. We have some good suggestions on what to do and how to do it in our Volunteering section.

Move it! If you've been meaning to get more active, this could be the summer you discover a new sport you really love. Team sports are big during fall, winter, and spring, but summer is when the solo athlete in all of us can really break through. Swim, walk, bike, hike. Karate kick, kayak paddle, or strike a yoga pose. If something costs money that you or your family may not have to spend, check out the free or low-cost programs at your local rec center, youth center, or library. The folks who plan stuff like this know that young people are out and about during the summer, looking to keep busy. Visit our Solo Sports section or talk to an adult -- like a parent, youth leader, or doctor -- for ideas.

We know none of this is exactly news to you. But we want to offer a reminder that in general, summer is the best possible time to explore fresh ventures, try something unfamiliar, and break out of the rut you may feel stuck in during the school year. If you're feeling like you want to make a change in your life for the better, pick one thing to focus on between now and September -- your health, a new hobby, making friends, whatever -- and think about how to do it. As always, IML is here to help, so feel free to post questions on our You Said It pages or Advice section.

Here's to a golden season of golden opportunities!

Surfing champ Lakey Peterson talks about wet stuff
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Many of us are used to being able to get as much water as we need, whenever we need it. Wanna take a bath? Just turn on the tap! Feed the lawn? Simply grab a hose. But that won't always be the case. In fact, by the year 2013, 36 U.S. states are expected to face serious water shortages. 2013...that's two years away! Gulp! We're getting thirsty just thinking about that.

lakey.jpgHere at IML we've already talked about the importance of water conservation, and how you can help, in our Green Living section. A new campaign called Save Water Today is doing the same thing with videos starring celebrities offering easy advice on how to be water-wise. 16-year-old surfer Lakey Peterson is part of this campaign...actually, she's more than just a surfer; she's an amazing, boundary-shattering athlete and passionate environmentalist. Recently, Lakey shared with us her thoughts on the water issue as well as her upcoming Nike women's surf film, "Leave A Message." 

IML: How did you get involved with the Save Water Today campaign?

Lakey:  Since I'm the spokesperson for the Student Conservation Association, they felt I was the perfect person to speak to youth about saving water.  I was super excited to spread awareness about water conservation!
IML: What have you learned about water conservation?
Lakey: I learned that not only is it more important than everyone thinks it is, it's also actually much easier to prevent water waste than you'd think. It takes so little effort to make so much of a difference!
IML: Why do you think young people need to educate themselves about this issue?
Lakey: As kids, we're the best hope for being able to save the environment before it's too late. We have a chance to learn from both the positive things and mistakes made by older generations and really make the world a better place to live in!
IML: Okay, so what are the top 2 or 3 things we can do every day to conserve water?
Lakey: (1) Make all your showers 5 minutes or less. (2) Don't let water run in the sink, even if it's just a little drip. (3) Keep the water off when you're brushing your teeth. That seems small but it saves 3 gallons a day!
IML: How can kids get their parents and other adults around them to get with the program?
Lakey: It's pretty easy. Whenever you get a flyer or a program or something like that about saving water (or whenever you see one of our Save Water Today ads), just be sure to show it to your parents, and hopefully they'll get that you're serious about it, and it's something to really pay attention to. And whenever you see them wasting water, call them out on it...but be nice!
IML: Tell us about "Leave A Message" -- what were the highlights of shooting the film?
Lakey: It was AMAZING! I've never been on camera for such a long period of time before, so initially I didn't know what to expect, but it was awesome to travel around the world with all my friends and surf the spots that I always dreamed of!  It's going to be a pretty INCREDIBLE film, and I'm so excited for everyone to see it!
IML: Do you think there's an image of women surfers that you'd like to see changed?
lakey-surf.jpgLakey: For some reason girls just have the mindset that they can't surf as well as guys, but when you see this film you can see that we don't have that mindset. We don't let anything hold us back from surfing the best that we can.

IML: You started surfing competitively when you were 11. How did being involved so deeply in a sport help you during the pre-teen years? 

Lakey: I think that it has been amazing because I'm so busy that I don't have time to get into trouble. Surfing is known to be a party industry, but I'm not really into that whole scene. Don't get me wrong, I have fun but when it's time to focus...It's time to focus. I have that "Just Do It" mentality in me, I think!

Check out Lakey's Save Water Today PSA and learn more about how to do your part:

Celeb Scoop: Hannah Teter
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HannahTeter.jpgYou may know Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter for her head-spinning half-pipe moves, but what you may not be aware of is that Hannah spends a good deal of her time and energy helping to shred child poverty across the globe.

Last year, Hannah teamed up with two friends -- snowboarder Gabi Viteri and surfer Monyca Byrne-Wickey -- to form a clothing line called Sweet Cheeks. Forty percent of the proceeds go to Children International, a humanitarian organization that helps poor children throughout the world. We recently spoke to Hannah about her dedication to the cause, as well as what health and sports participation has meant to her.

IML: How did you first get interested in the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: My family sponsored a child when I was growing up, so that's how I first got involved. I was really young and saw what a child my own age in another country was going through, and how we were helping them and their families. That gave me an awareness right off the bat, that 20 dollars a month can change some kid's life forever.

IML: Last fall, you traveled to Mexico to see the issue firsthand. Can you tell us about that?

Hannah: I went with Gaby and Monyca to see how our donations from Sweet Cheeks were making a difference with Children International, and to see their Game On program in action. The Game On program is where they set up a whole building where the kids will come in and they have a doctor, a dentist, medicine if they need it, nutrition classes for the parents, schooling for the kids, sports...all in one place. They show up and they get this whole slew of things they wouldn't get anywhere else. It's set up in a community of 20,000 to 30,000 people so they're big centers and there are a lot of kids that come through. It was amazing to go into these villages and meet these families, hear their stories and what they're going through, and how we're making a difference. They were mostly families that have recently been picked up by Children International, and we really got to see how it works and hear first hand from them. It was just incredible.

IML: What strikes you most about the kids you meet?

Hannah: You go in and these kids are just so beautiful and so smart, and aware of their situation but they're just the most happy, smiling kids. They have nothing but they're just shining so bright. It definitely makes you aware that material things don't make you happy, it's all about the connection with your family and friends and community, because that's all they have. That's what they live off of.

IML: That definitely gives you perspective. Why else is it important for young people to make themselves aware of the issue of child poverty?

Hannah: So they can be the changemakers. If they're aware of what's going on, then they can be the ones to make changes, because they're the future. They're going to be running our country in the coming years, and be our voices for change. If they don't know what's going on, we can't make any changes. So it's really important for kids to have that perspective and know the issues that we're facing so they can think about that kind of stuff. It also helps you appreciate what you have in life.

IML: If someone wants to help but they don't have their own money to sponsor a child or send a donation, what else can they do? If you're 10 years old and don't have a lot of resources, what can you do to help out?

Hannah: I think it just starts with your surrounding friends and family. To be positive. The simple things, like sharing and caring and recycling. Just showing their surrounding situations, the positiveness. That will just spread. It starts with a small thing and usually makes way more impact than you even think. I've witnessed many things that kids have done, from having a dinner fundraiser to a bottle drive to selling lemonade, simple things like that. A little goes a long way. Even if you raise $50, that's feeding a kid for a couple of months in another country!

IML: Good to keep in mind! So on IML, we talk a lot about different kinds of health. What does that word "health" mean to you, and how do we get good health in our lives?

Hannah: Health to me is a combination of things, from physical health to mental health to just overall well-being. There are so many avenues to walk down to be healthy. Definitely a huge thing is diet and what you're putting in your body, being conscious of it. What's in what you're eating? It's hard to know sometimes, especially in our culture. They makes labels so that you don't understand what you're looking at. Then, mental health is huge as well. They say stress can affect your overall health almost as much as what you eat. So keeping your mind positive and thinking helpful thoughts to yourself -- that's hard to do -- but definitely possible and it makes a huge difference in being healthy. And exercise, of course. Getting yourself out and moving!

IML: It's hard for us to remember that all that stuff is relatively easy, they just need to make it a priority. You've been snowboarding since you were 9 years old. What did being involved in sports mean to you as a kid?

Hannah: It was definitely an outlet to let out all the energy I had built up from sitting at a desk all day. I'd done a lot of team sports and I was lucky because we had mellow coaches who helped make it fun. It should always be about the fun when you're young. With snowboarding, I was lucky because it was a program my school offered. Every Friday, they'd take us up to the mountain and we'd be in groups. I'd be with friends and we'd just have the time of our lives. I remember starting, I was the worst one in my group. They'd all have to wait for me at the bottom of the hill. But over time I ended up becoming the best. It was just for fun, and my friends never cared who was the best. It was all about progression.

IML: Was there a moment for you when you were like, I really want to do this at a higher level?

Hannah: I kind of felt like that when I had done a few amateur competitions and did well. Then I was talking to my brother and I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to do the U.S. Open and get on the podium." He was like, "Yeah, right. You can't do that." That just fueled my fire. And I didn't do it the next year, which I'd originally planned, but the year after I ended up getting on the podium twice and winning a car. When somebody tells you that you can't do something, it makes you want to do it way more!

IML: You've been able to turn your success as an athlete into an opportunity to do some real good in the world. Do you remember what first motivated you there?

Hannah: When I was about 13, there was this one super special place that I would always walk to. It was a rock out in the middle of this meadow. This was before I started traveling for snowboarding. I had this feeling that if I were to ever make it big, that I would want to use my success to help out in the most ways I could. I'd go to this rock a couple times a week until I moved away from Vermont at age 18. I always had that feeling, then I ended up going to the Olympics in Torino and after winning there, I knew that it was the hugest platform to start something big. I just always carried that feeling.

IML: Lucky for all those kids and families, then! Thanks for talking with us, Hannah, and good luck with everything.

Hannah: Thanks!

Here's a video of Hannah, Gabi, and Monyca talking more about their experiences in Mexico:

For more information on Children International, or how to sponsor a child, visit

Meet tween outdoor adventurer Matt Moniz
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Thumbnail image for matt-moniz.jpgAt the IML Blog, we love discovering tweens who are out there doing something a little unique...something cool and challenging and inspiring. Like 12-year-old mountain climber Matt Moniz, who spent last summer on a trek with his dad to climb the highest peak in all 50 U.S. states in 50 days.

Since then, Matt has become dedicated to encouraging other young people to get outdoors, explore, be active, have fun, and possibly amaze themselves. He recently shared his experiences and advice with IML.

IML: When did you start mountain climbing, and how did you learn "the ropes"?

Matt: I started climbing big mountains when I was nine. My first major expedition was a trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Along the way, in addition to seeing awesome mountains like Ama Dablam and of course Mount Everest, I visited amazing monasteries and the Sherpa Hillary School.

I developed a lot of my core alpine skills while climbing mountains and learning from guides and Sherpas. Last spring I spent my break taking a six-day mountaineering course in Alaska. That helped me prepare for the challenges of climbing Denali this past summer.

IML: How did you and your dad come up with the idea for the 50-state expedition?

Matt: We both really enjoyed traveling around the world climbing peaks in Russia (Mt. Elbrus), Tanzania (Mt. Kilimanjaro) and Argentina (Cerro Aconcagua). In 2009 we were thinking that it would be fun to explore our backyard here in Colorado. Colorado has many high-peaks, known as the 14ers because they are at least fourteen thousand feet high. Out of that came the idea for the "14 Fourteeners in 14 Days Expedition" to raise awareness for a rare disease my best friend Iain has called Pulmonary Hypertension.

The climb was a success.  We were able to climb them all in just eight days and we raised over $20,000 for the PAH fund and awareness! So to continue the theme of exploring the world we decided to attempt all fifty state high points in fifty days, "50 States, 50 Peaks, 50 Days Expedition". Again, we were successful and completed the journey in 43 days setting the new world speed record.

IML: You and your dad spent a lot of quality time together during this adventure! What was that like? Did you get along?

Matt: I loved spending time in the mountains with my dad. We always bring out the best in each other. It would be hard for some kids to imagine that we got along great after spending so much time together in tents, on trails, sitting in the van and airplanes -- but we did!

Maybe the reason why we did do so well together is that we relied on each other on the climbs. A good example of that was one time on Denali, my father lost his footing while descending the steep headwall above basecamp. He was connected to me by a rope, and I remember just immediately dropping down and planting my ice axe in the snow and stopping his slide. All my training and experience just kicked in without ever thinking about the situation. Reflecting on my journey this summer with my dad, I think how lucky I am to spend so much time together and I know that if we can overcome these extreme challenges together, there is no mountain too high.

IML: We would imagine that reaching the summit is the most rewarding part of a climb. But were there moments on the way up or down that were also rewarding?

mattmoniz2.jpgMatt: Sure, we had many wonderful moments along the way to and from the summits, like lying out in my sleeping bag gazing at awesome night skies with millions of stars. Glissading, or sliding on your rear down steep snowy slope, was also really a blast. Maybe the most rewarding was all the wonderful people we met along the way who shared stories about their home state and lives that really made the expedition more interesting.  

IML: It sounds like you did a lot of your 50 state climbs pretty fast, without much rest before or after. How do you fuel up your body for maximum energy when you're going to do something physically tough?

Matt: Eating in the cold and at high altitude can be kind of a challenge. It's not much fun trying to chew a frozen candy bar when you're cold and don't have much of an appetite. I tried to find foods that I knew I would like no matter what the conditions. My favorites were potato chips, salami, hot chocolate, chicken and pita bread and of course candy bars. Between climbs I would try to eat as much as I could. One time before climbing Kings' Peak in Utah, I ate a steak that was almost as big as me!

IML: Visiting a lot of different states in a short period of time must have been eye-opening! What was the most surprising thing you discovered about a state? What was the funniest?

Matt: I never really expected that the Texas highpoint would be that interesting. I was wrong! At almost nine thousand feet in elevation Guadalupe Peak was incredible. Rising above the plains the mountain has ominous share granite walls and is covered in nearly five hundred different species of plants. The coolest is the brilliant red-barked madrone tree that looks like it is from another planet.

Funniest was driving through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee after climbing Clingman's Dome and seeing so many tourist attractions including the Titanic Museum, which has a gigantic replica ship complete with water splashing on the bow that looks so real you think it is going to come crashing across the road!

IML: Tell us about the organization Outdoor Nation. How can other kids get involved?

Matt: Outdoor Nation is about getting young people outdoors and, most importantly, that they learn how they can help protect our public lands and ensure recreation access for generations of kids to come. Just like other kids, I love watching movies and playing video games, but we need to be careful that we don't spend too much time in front of screens - it's easy to do, especially with all the great games and shows available. So get outside and ski, bike, hike, skate, play or do whatever makes you happy - you'll have a blast and feel better than sitting around in the house. You can join Outdoor Nation by going to

IML: What's your advice for kids who would like to get outdoors but don't have the access, the training, or the gear? What are some easy ways to just get and stay active, especially in the winter?

Matt: Good question! First bit of advice is just to get outside, look around and explore your neighborhood and local parks. During the winter I like to find projects to do outside like making a snow fort or building a ski jump to practice tricks. To keep things interesting, I like to go for a swim at the pool or climb indoors at our local rock gym. The important thing is to have fun, be active and appreciate how lucky we are to have so many parks and recreation choices.
A fun way to keep it interesting is with a little gizmo called a GeoPalz, a pedometer and website that keep track of how much you walk. The more you walk the more points you earn that you can exchange for fun prizes! You can combine the GeoPalz with hikes and new sports like geo-caching which is where you use a GPS to play a game of "high-tech hide and seek" outdoors. I took one with me during my climbs and it was really fun to see how many steps I was taking to climb the peaks!
I'd just like to say to other kids that you don't need to climb a mountain to have fun (although you certainly can). There are so many opportunities to find your passion for outdoor sports. Non-profit organizations are all over the country that can help introduce you to new ways to have fun and excitement in the outdoors. A few cool groups are Big City Mountaineers, The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, but you can do your own research, I'm sure you'll find many options. Reading tales of high adventure can spark you into action as well -- my favorite book is "No Short Cuts to the Top" by Ed Viesturs.

IML: Thanks, Matt! And good luck with your next adventure!


Ballroom Kids: Jaryd and Cara
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To round out our series on tweens who are also competitive ballroom dancers, meet Jaryd and Cara!

At this point you may be asking, "IML, why are you doing THREE different interviews on this topic?" Well, when we met all these kids, we couldn't decide who would best represent their sport on our website, so we figured, why not introduce all of them? They're all awesome! We enjoyed getting familiar with this whole world we knew very little about, and helping IML'ers discover it too...especially if someone out there tries ballroom dancing as a result and finds it to be their "thing"!

jaryd&cara.jpgJaryd, who is 12 years old, and Cara, who is 10, have been dancing together for 3 years and have won numerous awards, as well as the honor of appearing on TV's "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," and "Dancing with the Stars." 

IML: How did you two first become ballroom dancing partners?

Jaryd: I've been dancing ballet, tap, lyrical, jazz, and gymnastics since I was 3 1/2 years old, and I started dancing ballroom when I was 8 or 9. One day at a party, my family and Cara's family were sitting at the same table. Cara's mom asked me if I was interested in us being partners. We tried it, and it worked.

Cara: Jaryd did a jazz tap dance and I was like, "Wow!" He was really nice and we felt we could be partners.

IML: You've been partners for 3 years and but soon you're each going to move on to other partnerships, right?

Jaryd: Yes. I really want to start doing 10-dance, which means you dance Latin and Standard dances, and Cara wants to focus just on Latin dancing.

IML: What made yours a successful dance partnership?

Jaryd: We really had fun, and Latin ballroom was a good fit for both of us.

Cara: It's been an excellent experience to be with a partner. The first partner I had was my brother, and he was too tall for me. We kept arguing because we couldn't get the steps right! That never happened with Jaryd. And he does so many different dances, which is so amazing. He was a great partner to have.

IML: Did you ever have any disagreements or conflicts when learning a routine?

Jaryd: Sometimes you trip or fall. You just have to keep working it out until it works.

IML: What's a typical day been like for you, balancing school and life and dance?

Cara: First I go to school, then Jaryd and I would practice together three days a week. We'd be rushing to the car and change and go to the dance studio. It was a little stressful.

Jaryd: I have something to do each day; I don't have a lot of free time. Because I have ballroom some days, and on other days I have ballet or hip-hop. I just made the Lil Torches (a junior cheer-dance team) for the New York Liberty basketball team. So I have to be at Madison Square Garden every week, and it's like a job because I get paid.

IML: Do you miss having free time, or do you feel like it's all worth it?

Jaryd: No, because it's always fun. I really enjoy it. At least I have time to do my homework, and that's important!

IML: Cara, how long does it usually take you to learn a new routine?

Cara: My teacher says I'm a sponge! Because I absorb things very fast. I can usually learn something new in an hour.

IML: Jaryd, your parents also compete in ballroom. Do you and they ever compete at the same event?

Jaryd: Yes! My grandparents and our friends come to watch and cheer all of us. Sometimes I'm waiting to dance right after them and cheering them on while I'm on deck.

IML: That must be a cool thing to share as a family. What have you learned from your parents as dancers?

Jaryd: Sometimes they give me some advice, like to not push my partner off her balance. They help, and it's good to have them around!

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Cara: I like Cha Cha and Jive in Latin. In Rhythm, I like Mambo, Swing, and Bolero. I love the beats and the dance steps.

Jaryd: I don't really have a favorite. They're all equal for me. They're all fun!

2010Jaryd_n_Cara_Nationals.jpgIML: What are the judges looking for when they're scoring you?

Jaryd: Sometimes it's not all about the nice moves. It's about all the qualities you have. You should look like you're relaxed and having fun, and not dancing too upright.

IML: In general, what has dance added to your life?

Jaryd: It's given me strength and courage, and it makes me want to keep dancing. It's given me great opportunities because I've met so many people and been taught by so many people.

Cara: It gives me confidence. I think I've grown more because of dance.

IML: How do you prepare yourself mentally before you go out on a competition dance floor?

Jaryd: My teacher says he wants "first place" all the time. Which you can't always get, but he wants to put that in our minds. So before I go on, I think about that and try my best. You have to have confidence and not think, "I'm going to lose," because then you probably will.

IML: When you're dancing, are you aware of what other couples are doing and the audience watching you?

Jaryd: I go pretty much into my zone. I concentrate but also have fun. You can't dance without fun!

IML: What's your happiest or proudest moment from dancing so far?

Cara: When me and Jaryd went on "Dancing with the Stars". Everything was so exciting!

Jaryd: Winning is good, but then if you lose, it makes you want to try harder. You learn from losing.

IML: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened since you've been dancing together?

Cara: Me and Jaryd were practicing once and both of us fell because we tripped on each other's feet.

Jaryd: I slipped once and got up. When I spin sometimes, my snot comes out!

IML: That's hilarious! What advice do you have for other kids and teens who might want to get involved in ballroom dancing?

Cara: Never give up on yourself. If you think you can't do something, you really can...Anybody can do anything!

Jaryd: Keep dancing, or at least try it. If you think you're not good, just keep trying. Don't stop. Keep your confidence up.

IML: Thanks, guys! Good luck to both of you!

Watch Jaryd and Cara dancing their way to 3rd place at the recent USA Dance Nationals:

One thing we noticed is that even though all six of these "Ballroom Kids" work really hard and have to be super-committed to their sport, there's no doubt they love it passionately and truly enjoy themselves. We hope you enjoyed this peek into the world of ballroom dancing, and we hope to delve deeper into other lesser-known sports for kids in the future on this blog!

Do you know of a a cool sport or hobby that other tweens might not know about, and think we should investigate? Let us know!

Ballroom Kids: Ivan and Madelyne
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ivan&madelyne.jpgIf you thought it was amazing that Michelle and Dmitriy are such awesome ballroom dancers at such a young age, you'll also be wowed by Michelle's sister Madelyne and her partner, Ivan. Madelyne and Ivan are just 8 years old and have been dancing together for 2 years. They placed 1st the last four times they competed. What's it like to be dancing the Samba and Rumba and Paso Doble -- and winning medals for it -- before you're even out of elementary school? Read on!

IML: It was exciting for us to first meet you in the practice room at the USA Dance Nationals, then watch you compete, and then see you win first place! What did it feel like when you won?

Ivan: When there's two couples left, just you and another one, and they call their names for second place, you know you've won first place. We were happy before we even got our prize!

IML: How did you first get started in ballroom dance, and how did you get paired up together?

Ivan: I started when I was 4. I was pretty much with different partners every single day in my dance studio. Everybody else was lower or higher in level and age than me, and then I met Madelyn and she was the perfect age and height. Our birthdays are only 20 days apart!

Madelyne: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was 3 years old. When I was 4 or 5, I was dancing with a boy named Robert who was taller than me so I only danced with him for a little bit. Then the dance studio put Ivan and me together to try it out and practice together, and finally we decided that we could be partners.

IML: When you first started dancing together, what did you think of each other?

Madelyne: I really didn't know him at first. I wasn't sure if he would be a good dancer or a bad dancer...then I saw him and his partner dance together and he was really good!

IML: It seems like you have a lot of fun dancing together, which is important. Do you ever have arguments?

Ivan: No, never! Not even one time.

IML: Glad to hear it! Do you spend time together outside of dance?

Madelyne: Yes! Last year we went to the same camp so we were there together. Sometimes we have playdates together.

IML: Do your parents dance, too?

Ivan: When my mom was a little kid, she danced. I have three reasons why I like to dance. The first reason is that I was born to dance. My second reason is that I've always had the feeling that I want to dance. The third reason is because my mom danced and her hobby went to me when I was born.

IML: Does it feel special for you to share this hobby with her?

Ivan: Yes, definitely!

IML: Madelyne, does your older sister Michelle give you advice?

Madelyne: It's really cool to share dance with her. When I need help with something or if I want to get better at something, she's there for me. 

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Ivan: I have more than just one. My favorites are Waltz and Paso Doble.

Madelyne: I like Rumba, Paso Doble, Waltz and Quickstep. In Quickstep I like to run and it's really fast, so it's like running but you're not running. And I like to dance Waltz because it's a very slow melody and I like the sound of it. With Rumba, you've done these other dance styles that are very hard but Rumba kind of relaxes you. I like Paso because you have to try really hard, and I like putting a lot of effort into my dancing.

IML: How much time do you spend dancing?

Madelyne: We dance Monday through Saturday, every week.

IML: And you never get sick of it?

Ivan: No!

IML: Dancers in the older age groups get to wear fancy dresses, and Madelyne, we watched you collecting lost sequins off the dance floor after they performed. Do you do that at every competition?

Madelyne: Yes! I collect sequins for when we get older and I can make a nice costume! I want to put some things on a dress to make it prettier. And I like to see how they sparkle.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a competition?

Madelyne: Once I was at a competition regional. We were doing Samba and my partner forgot the whole routine, so I had to basically do all the steps by myself. It was really funny because you could see that we were messing up. We still won first place!

Ivan and Madelyne are proof that when it comes to being really dedicated, hard-working, and talented at something, age doesn't matter.

Check out Ivan and Madelyne dancing their way to first place at the recent USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Champtionships. One of the things we found interesting about ballroom dancing for kids is that there are strict rules about what they can wear in competition, which puts an emphasis on what's appropriate for certain age groups.

"Ballroom Week" on IML continues this weekend when we meet Jaryd and Cara!

Celeb Scoop: Sean Kingston
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sean_with_yogmascot.jpg2010 has been a big year so far for Sean Kingston. In February he turned 20, and in March his single "Eenie Meenie," recorded with some guy named Justin Bieber, became an instant hit.

What you may not know is that Sean also had the honor of being chosen one of five young artists to sing the theme song for the first-ever Youth Olympic Games to be held in Singapore this August!

Yes, you read that right: the Youth Olympic Games, which will bring together 5,000 athletes aged 14 - 18 from 205 countries to compete in 26 different sports. Do the math, and that adds up to one extremely cool event that's bound to be entertaining and inspiring. The Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games theme song, called "Everyone" debuted on June 1.

Recently, Sean spoke to IML about being part of the Youth Olympic Games and other highlights of his life right now.

IML: Hi Sean! So we understand that five singers were picked to sing the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games theme song, one for each continent symbolized by the Olympic rings. Can you tell us how you got involved?

Sean: I got a call from my manager that they wanted me to represent as a singer for North America. That's something big, and I was so excited to go down there and do it! It was so fun to see and connect with the other artists. We recorded the song, and it was just really crazy. You have singers from different countries on the song: a guy from the United Kingdom, and girls from Africa, Australia, and Malaysia. I'd never met any of them, but they're all artists who are big in their own countries. It was a great honor for me to represent the United States in this way.

(IML's note: The other artists are Steve Appleton, Jody Williams, Jessica Mauboy, and Tabitha Nauser.)

sean_themesong2.jpgIML: What was it like working with this variety of artists? Did everyone have different styles?

Sean: Definitely! Everybody had different voices and the way they each do their thing is really different. So for me to come through as a reggae artist with my type of tone in my voice, it was weird at first but we made it happen and I had a great time. It opened my eyes to different vocal styles.

IML: So you had some differences, but what were some things that the five of you had in common?

Sean: The main thing was that we're all young...Everybody was a teenager. We found ourselves talking about high school stuff we could all relate to. And we all write our own music, so we had that in common too. They were writing their own albums like me.

IML: Tell us about the song itself. Does it have a message?

Sean: Yes, a great message! The song is saying, anybody can do it. Not just in sports, but life in general. Rise up and come together. Have determination. Don't give up.

IML: What's your favorite Olympic sport?

Sean: I love track and field. I'm from Jamaica, so that comes naturally!

IML: Are there any sports you do personally?

Sean: In high school, I played football. But now I play basketball. I go to the gym, I shoot around. I'm a huge basketball fan. I'm really into the playoffs right now!

IML: It's great to have something like that. What do you feel basketball added to your life?

Sean: It helps me get in shape, definitely. It's a workout for me but it's also about having fun. I just want to get the ball in the hoop. I get to hang out with my friends when I'm playing. It helps me ease my mind from the music industry when I'm having fun on the court.

IML: Congrats on the success of  "Eenie Meenie." What was it like to collaborate with Justin?

Sean: It was definitely great to hook up with somebody I could really relate to. People do collaborations all the time, but to really connect with someone I have a relation to and who's a personal friend behind the scenes, that was great. Me and Justin have been cool for a long time. The relationship we have works in many ways. He's the new generation, the new thing. I was where he is a couple of years ago. I got in the game when I was 17 and I'm 20 now. I'm kind of like a big brother to him. To do that song together was definitely a magic moment. It was great and we had a lot of fun!

IML: Did you have any advice for him at this point in his career?

Sean: Basically I told him to stay humble. Stay positive and watch out for negative people around you.

Thumbnail image for seankingston.jpgIML: Great advice! What other artists do you plan to collaborate with?

Sean: I'm hooking up with Nicki Minaj. I'd love to do something with Taylor Swift. I'm just trying to connect with a lot of different artists. I'm basically trying to take this music thing to another level with the album I'm working on now. I'm trying different new sounds and different concepts.

IML: Now that you're 20, does it feel like this album is your first grown-up album?

Sean: Yeah. This is my grown up album. It's a stepping stone to a new Sean. I have to let people know to get ready for it because while I was a teenager, I was doing what I was doing because it was a part of me, and even though I'm still a fun kid and I'm not going to change to another genre, I'm going to take things to another level.

IML: We love to ask this next question because most IML'ers are going through it right now. What were you like in middle school?

Sean: I was always into music. I loved riding four wheelers and stuff like that. I had a little dirt bike and I loved riding it. I was and still am a huge gamer, really playing Playstation and XBox. And I used to love cartoons like Pokemon!

IML: It sounds like you were a pretty typical tween!

Sean: Yes, definitely!

IML: Thanks, Sean, and good luck with everything!

Sean: Thank you!

Here's some more info on the Youth Olympic Games:

  • Sean and his new pals will be performing "Everyone" at the opening ceremonies in Singapore on August 14, 2010 (hear the song and see the video below!). The games run from August 14-26, 2010.

  • The competition plans to include new formats like mixed gender grouping and mixed National Olympic Committee teams.

  • In addition to competing in their sports, the young teen athletes will also take part in a Culture and Education Program. The goal is to inspire youth around the world to embrace, embody and express the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect.

  • You can visit to learn more about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games!

And here's the official video for "Everyone"! It's really inspiring (and a great song too):

Our favorite Olympic moments
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vancouver_2010_logo.jpgThe Winter Olympics of 2010 came to an end last night with the stirring, poignant Closing Ceremonies in Vancouver. It was a super-fun 16 days of competition, with hundreds of truly memorable moments. Here, in no particular order, are our top ten faves of the games:

"Both Sides Now."
The best sequence of the Opening Ceremonies featured a young acrobat gracefully whirling and twirling on wires, high above the stadium floor. Simple, poetic, and breathtaking, and made even more special by the fact that the ceremonies were dedicated to the memory of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died during a training run that day.

Competing through grief.
Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette was poised for her Olympic moment when the unthinkable happened: her mother Therese died suddenly of a heart attack just two days before the ladies' competition was scheduled to begin. Joannie inspired the world by choosing to skate as planned, and doing so with amazing grace and strength. We can't imagine how it must have felt for Joannie to be dealing with such heartbreaking loss and the pressure of the Olympics at the same time. Her performances resulted in not just a bronze medal victory but a lovely tribute to her mom.

The Flying Tomato repeats. Okay, so he doesn't want anyone using that nickname anymore, but we still love it. Shaun White became a star when he won gold in the snowboarding half-pipe four years ago in Torino, Italy. This year he did it again, with an amazing first run full of towering jumps and near-impossible tricks. He didn't even need to make a second run, but he did... and incredibly topped his already unbeaten score. Magic!

Canada wins home gold. Canada hosted the 1976 summer games and the 1988 winter games, but didn't manage to win a gold medal in either year. This time around, Alexandre Bilodeau finally broke the home-soil "curse" with a top finish in men's moguls, and a nation of fans breathed a sigh of relief. Then they cheered,  yelled, and went a little crazy, like sports fans usually do when they find a new hero. (Turns out they had nothing to worry about, since Canadian athletes went on to win 13 more golds, more than any country in any winter Olympics!) The fact that Alexandre dedicated his performance to his older brother Frédéric, who has cerebral palsy, made it all the sweeter.

Longtime partners rule ice dancing. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, along with silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, helped make the competition electric fun to watch this year. The two pairs train together in Canton, Michigan and have the same coaches, but they share something else in common: they've been partners for ages. Meryl and Charlie teamed up when they were just ten years old; Tessa and Scott when they were 8 and 10. Wow...can you imagine going through so much with one person for so long? It was great to see the rewards of all those years of hard work!

Great Britain finds a reason to cheer. Amy Williams won Great Britain's first individual winter gold in 30 years when she took first place in skeleton. She also managed to break the track record... twice. Good show!

Ammann owns the hills. In Salt Lake City in 2002, they called Simon Ammann "Harry Potter" because of his resemblance to the young wizard. The Swiss ski-jumping phenom won gold on both the normal and large hills that year. Amazingly, he did it again in Vancouver . This makes him the first man to win gold medals in both individual ski jumping events in two Olympics, and the most decorated Swiss Olympic athlete ever. A wizard, totally!

Rivals, friends, and champions. USA's Lindsey Vonn and Germany's Maria Riesch are considered two of the best skiers in the world, and they showed that on the slopes of Whistler, earning two Olympic medals apiece. But what we liked most were the "behind the scenes" videos that showed how these fierce competitors are also BFF's. They root and cheer for each other all the time, and Vonn even spends Christmas vacation with Riesch in her hometown in Germany. Somehow they make it work, and that's inspiring to us.

Bode redeems himself. Many consider Bode Miller to be America's best alpine skier ever, but in the 2006 Torino games he famously washed out, earning zero medals. This year Bode proved himself a true Olympic champ, taking a gold, a silver and a bronze. A true example of how "failures" can often lead to the sweetest successes.

Awesome hockey rivalries. The greatest thrills in hockey this year -- in both the men's and women's tournaments -- came in games between the USA and Canada. Fast, aggressive, spirited play between the best players in the doesn't get any better than that! Canada ended up winning both gold medals, which is appropriate. Hey, they were the host nation and it is their national sport after all. But the underdog American men's and women's teams fought hard, earning their silver medals and making the Canadians work for their golds. If these teams meet in the finals four years from now in Russia, watch out! They'll be grudge matches for sure!

Yes, we're happy we can return to our regularly scheduled programs now, but we'll miss the highs and lows of the Olympics. What were your favorites?

Celeb Scoop: Mirai Nagasu
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Last night two Americans made their debut on the Olympic stage: 17-year-old Rachael Flatt from Colorado and Mirai Nagasu, 16, from California. Both young women weren't "expected" to medal in the ladies' figure skating competition...but both performed wonderfully in the short program. Rachael hit a personal best with her routine and Mirai didn't let a nosebleed ruin her concentration. You go, girls!

mirainagasu.jpgIt's really fun to watch teens from all countries in a competition like this. But do you wonder, like we do, if they're missing out on a normal life? How do you deal with all the challenges of friends, crushes, family stuff, and high school when you're also a world-class athlete?

Last year, IML got the chance to talk to Mirai Nagasu about this. She was "just" the U.S. National Champion back then...but we knew we'd be seeing her at these Olympics. Even if you're not a big figure skating fan, she is amazing to watch (especially those spins!). We hope you'll check out our interview with Mirai, and we'll be rooting for her tomorrow night during the competition finals!