How Not To

I’ve been processing this post for weeks, and debated whether to write it or just let it lay in my head and on my heart. But the words keep fighting to get out, so here it goes. I’m going to preface this with a word to my Princess……Please know I am not judging or disagreeing with your decision to try new and different things. Now is the time to explore and experience. Just know these words come from my viewpoint, my experience as a mom, as your mom….

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I was fairly sure I was going to put her in dance and/or gymnastics at some point. Whether it ever stuck or not would be up to her, and I would never force the issue if she straight-up hated it. But I knew we would try it out.  Before she was even born, I imagined her vaulting, swinging on the bars, and in a pink tutu and tights. When she was three, she started a Saturday morning combo class which covered ballet, tap, and a little bit of tumbling. It was adorable. She was adorable. Seriously though, I needed something girlie going on in our lives, outnumbered by men in our house. She made it through one year, and had her first recital when she was four. It was precious, and everything I’d hoped for.

We took the summer away from the studio, and when fall rolled around, I asked her if she wanted to dance again. She gave me a firm yes, so back we went to that Saturday morning class. That year, we met and made friends with another family whose oldest daughter was in class with the Princess. They’re still dancing together. That year, they did a tap routine for recital. I got used to doing the recital hair and makeup, to dress rehearsals, and buying flowers for my budding dancer.

Year-after-year, I would ask the Princess if she wanted to keep dancing. The answer was always yes. Eventually, we added a jazz class. Now, she was also playing competitive soccer. By age ten, she reached a level of dance we were at the studio three or four times a week, and she also had at least two soccer practices a week, plus Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games. She was a busy little girl. That fall, midway through soccer and Nutcracker season, she told me she was tired. We told her it was probably time to choose between dance and soccer. She couldn’t do both at a competitive level and NOT be exhausted. I fully expected her to choose soccer, as that had been our life for more than three years.  She sat on it for a couple of weeks, and then told me she’d made her choice – she wanted to dance. I made her evaluate that choice for a couple of weeks before we started making any announcements, and she had to finish the season with her soccer team of course. But in February that winter, she became a dancer full time.

I’ve spent twelve years watching her dance, watching her become such a beautifully talented young woman. Every time I see her perform, I’m touched by her strength, her grace, her courage, her ability. I cry more often than not. I can cry just watching her hands moving in class as she works at the barre. This has been our life. I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent at the studio, driving to and from the studio, sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes, altering costumes, watching competitions, dress rehearsals and shows. I’ve loved it all. When  your kid does something so intently for so long, it’s not just about her anymore. You develop your own friendships with the other parents at the studio. We definitely have a much-loved dance family. And don’t get me started on her teachers and directors. They’re so much more to my girl than *just* dance teachers.

This past February, the Princess told me she wanted to stop dancing – well, at least stop ballet. I had no words, couldn’t even begin to think when she told me. I told her we were in it until recital as we’d already committed, paid, signed on the dotted line for this year. She’s a sophomore now, almost sixteen years old. She wants to try new things, be more engaged with her school. I understand. But this is hard. She may not believe this, but she is such a beautiful, talented dancer. Her face lights up on that stage. I see her – what’s inside of her – when she dances. And I just can’t imagine not being able to see that ever again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know how not to be a dance mom. I don’t know how to not be able to watch her do something she’s so good at. I don’t know how not to be part of this dance family.

I watched her dance recital this past weekend. I cried every time she stepped onto that stage, knowing it might be the last time. We’ve spent twelve years doing this. I spent twelve years watching her grow, watching her turn into a real ballerina, a real dancer. At the hour of dress rehearsal I sat through last week, every dance she’s ever performed rolled through my head, from when she was a tiny ballerina in a pink leo and tutu, through her Hairspray jazz number, to being a turtle and lion, and on through her turn as Clara in the Nutcracker, to her solos, duo, and other competition pieces, to her finale as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I could see them all in my mind. So  many hours, so many years.

Who knows what will happen in the next months and years. I know we have to let her choose, have to let her make these decisions. I will have to come to terms with change. She says she’s going to continue with some dance, but we won’t be here again, in this exact place. No more competitions, no more Nutcracker, definitely not nearly as much time at the studio. I will just have to learn how not to be the dance mom I’ve been for twelve years.

You don’t know her

I was downloading performance pictures from Nutcracker this week, and, like any good dance mom, posting them to my social media. It hit me that most of the Princess’ friends have never seen her dance. She lives in two separate worlds….her school world, and her dance world. They don’t overlap at all. There’s an entire side to her that her school peeps have never even glimpsed. I don’t hold it against them  at all. I just find it interesting.

I looked at those pictures of her dancing, knowing exactly what faults she would find and point out, which she would like, which she would tell me to not download. She sees herself critically in the photos. I just see her when I look at them, and I realized, you don’t really know her if you’ve never seen her dance. She bares herself when she’s dancing – her passion, her drive, her emotions, her intent,  her strength, her vulnerability. Every time she performs, I learn something about her, and I think that’s what makes me cry when I watch her. I see her, and I know all the work she’s put into it.

I hope someday her friends get to see her dance. They’ll see a side of her they’ve never known, they’ll maybe understand why she frequently has to say, “I can’t, I have dance”, and they’ll know her better, because you don’t really know her, all of her, unless you’ve seen her dance.

Sewing Ribbons

It’s Nutcracker week, or as it’s more affectionately known in our household, it’s Nutcracker He** week. The Princess has 3-hour dress rehearsals tonight and tomorrow night, a five-hour rehearsal Wednesday night, then two more hours of orchestra rehearsal Friday afternoon before a show Friday night, a show Saturday afternoon, and then closes the week out with two show on Sunday. I’m tired just writing that, and I’m not the one dancing.

This one snuck up on me. Usually, I’m totally prepared. But I found myself scrambling last week, making calls all over the county – and then the southern part of the state – in an attempt to track down her specific brand and size pointe shoe. We ended up having to go with a shoe with one tiny part of the sizing changed, and I had to drive to a store forty minutes away, but we picked up the new shoes this morning. Now I have the pleasure of sewing on ribbons and elastic. No – pointe shoes don’t come with the pretty ribbons attached. Every ballerina has her own particular crazy when it comes to where and how her ribbons are sewn onto her pointe shoes. No, the Princess doesn’t sew her own ribbons. I know she should, but she’s currently upstairs trying to get four hours of homework finished in two hours so she can get to rehearsal. And I’m faster at it anyways. And I’m kind of a control freak. Someday, she will sew her own ribbons, but not today.

I still have to go back out tomorrow to get tights, eyelashes, and toe pads. This is how unprepared I am for Nutcracker this year. I’m so completely off my game. The worst part is that I’m over here saying, “meh” about being completely unprepared. Here’s the deal – this is our sixth time in this rodeo. We know what we’re doing. We know there’s no need to panic. We know it will come together, even if I don’t buy her new tights until the day of the first show. So I’m unprepared and off my game, but I’m completely not stressed. Ask me again tomorrow when I’m sewing ribbons. You might hear a different answer.

Last year at this time, we were wrapped up in her playing Clara. The whole week revolved around her rehearsals and getting her ready for her rehearsals. This year, she in Corps, and it just seems easy. Don’t get me wrong – I’d do that Clara thing all over again in heartbeat. There is something about watching your daughter make the leap to dancing with the big girls, of which she is  now one. The big girls wear pointe shoes, and so I’m sewing ribbons, smiling proudly with the tears forming in my eyes as my baby girl lives her dreams so beautifully.

Dedicated to the Princess

My bigs have access to social media, and thus, get the links to my blog posts. It definitely adds a new element, and I’m always aware there’s a chance they’ll be reading my take on their lives. Now I will say this, my boys definitely provide a lot of fodder for this blog. I mean, seriously….ADHD, Prematurity, Autism, and just plain old being boys. I could write for years on what goes on with them in one month.

And then there’s the Princess. She is our princess, our middle child, our only girl. Outside of some colic when she was a few months old, she’s been our saving grace, our island of calm in a crazy world. She doesn’t get in trouble (much). She’s organized, self-sufficient, focused, self-motivated. She generally helps around the house without being asked. She’s an overachiever. Honestly, outside of the normal teenage-girl drama, she’s not much work. She’s been pretty independent since birth.

I do have stuff to write about her though. She is my mini-me, but she’s ten thousand times the girl I was at her age. And don’t get me started on watching her cheer or dance. Nutcracker weekend is in two weeks. I  know I will be that weepy momma once again, even though she doesn’t have a starring role this year. Watching her do something well when I  know how much work she’s put into it always moves me. Watching her do something she so obviously loves….I can see the joy in her face when she’s onstage. Watching your kid live one of her dreams – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I don’t know if she knows how much I appreciate the fact she doesn’t give me much to write about.  I don’t know if she knows how much I appreciate our time together, even if it’s just singing along together to the radio as we drive to and from the studio. Oh, I absolutely adore being mom to boys, but good golly, I am so thankful I have a daughter. I love our shopping trips, cooking together in the kitchen, rolling our eyes simultaneously at the  boys’ antics.

She isn’t perfect, trust me. We’ve had our moments, especially as she begins to spread her wings and begins to become who she’s going to be. I may  not write about  her often, but you can trust that doesn’t mean she’s any less prominent in our home. She’s just the calm in the middle of our crazy.

Lessons from Scrapbooking

I believe I’ve mentioned I go away two weekends a year scrapbooking. There’s an amazing bed & breakfast in the mountains a couple hours away from home which caters to scrapbookers. It’s rather fabulous.  With a dedicated table, I can set up the day I arrive, and leave everything out until we’re ready to come home. You get a lot done that way.  It’s three days of cropping from mid-morning til late at night. This past weekend, I worked on the Princess’ Clara book from Nutcracker.  And of course, as I was working, thoughts were turning in my mind of how to blog about it. I came up with a list of the things I’ve learned from scrapbooking and going on a scrapbooking retreat.

  1. Scrapbooking is for everyone, not just suburban, stay-at-home moms. Seriously – the room was full of women from all stations, all situations in life. And yet the conversations flow…..we all have something in common.
  2. Usually, less is more, but sometimes more is more.  Some layouts just require all kinds of bling. I’m good at the bling.
  3. However, sometimes blank space on a page is a good thing, especially when you want the focus to be on the picture.
  4. Everyone has her own style. Seeing the creativity of some women makes me feel I’m lacking in that department, but then I realize I have my own style, and it’s all good.
  5. Scrapbooking is humbling and teaches patience.  I was about six layouts in when I realized I wanted to go about it an entirely different manner. It didn’t mean tossing what I’d done and starting over, but it did mean replacing some photos, and adding in a couple of layouts. At first, I was REALLY frustrated. I may have said a few bad words. But then I just did it, and it wasn’t so bad. It definitely made my life easier, and made the book look better.
  6. Wine while scrapbooking is good.
  7. Sometimes, you just need to stop what you’re doing and join the conversation around you.
  8. Scrapbooking is a social event, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to crop at home. It just isn’t  nearly as fun, and I find my pages are rushed, boring, and lacking when I’m cropping alone.
  9. There’s something to be learned from each person in a room. Listen.
  10. Just eat chocolate every once in awhile. It’s not going to kill you to have some extra calories now and again. Just don’t make it a habit.  Life is too short to skip dessert all the time.
  11. I actually can go to bed at 1am three nights in a row, and still be functional.
  12. There are adventures to be had. Be open to experiencing them.
  13. When your kid has done something amazing, it’s totally okay to brag a little bit, especially when you have pictures to support it.

There was something different this weekend. I think I’ve been going to this retreat with these women for seven or eight years. Most of that time, I’ve been a stay-at-home. Many of them not only work full-time, but they work full-time at incredible jobs and manage home/family as well. I would sometimes feel a wee bit insignificant. They never promoted that emotion, it came out of myself. How often are we the ones putting ourselves on a lower rung? I didn’t allow myself to feel that this weekend. I’m not less, my life is just different, I’m in a different place.

We usually walk every morning we’re up there. It was SOOOOO cold, and it had snowed a couple weeks ago. We did venture out to our usual path Friday morning, layered up and braving the 27-degree temps, only to find the trail had not been cleared of snow. We decided to go it anyways, and it was SLOW going. I didn’t realize how much walking on snow would work my core! We usually go 1.5 miles out and then back. We barely made it a mile and decided to turn back, and ended up going out to the road to finish.  The most amazing thing happened though…..While we were walking, we heard a pack of coyotes howling across the lake.  We looked over to the other side of the lake, and then watched as one of the coyotes ran all the way across the frozen lake. It was beautiful to see.

I finished the Clara book Saturday night, and gave it to the Princess when I got home yesterday.  She loved it. I had a much-needed getaway, and come home re-fueled.


Nutcracker Week

It seemed appropriate to share this once again. We’re winding up Nutcracker hell week….night four of rehearsals, with the shows beginning tomorrow night. This year, my Princess earned the role of Clara, and I couldn’t be more proud.  It’s been a long ten weeks of countless rehearsals, hours spent on partner work, long days at the studio and now the theater. So, when reading below, change the roles to Clara, Russian, and Waltz of the Flowers…..Happy Nutcracker!

I wrote the following a couple of years ago. I read it, and remember writing it, and realize that it seems like forever ago. We are in the midst of Nutcracker week, with one dress rehearsal and performance under our belts, and three more rehearsals and five shows to go.  Now she is one of the older girls. We’ve moved from ballet slippers to pointe shoes now. Her make-up application now includes false eyelashes. She does her own ballet bun. This year, she dances as a Peppermint Fairy in the Candy Scene, and is one of the Chinese Tea side girls. I had a very difficult time accepting the Holidays are here, until I heard the familiar music Saturday. She is still part of a bigger whole….she is in the Nutcracker.

The theater quiets as the lights drop. You can hear the creaking of seats as the audience settles, the last whispers, the shuffling behind the curtain as dancers take their places. Nerves push my heart into my throat, and I’m not even performing. Tonight is the culmination of months of preparation, a final week full of rehearsals and dress rehearsals. She is exhausted but exhilarated.

We have spent countless hours at the studio and theater preparing for tonight’s opening Nutcracker performance. The music plays in our minds through days and nights. Candy Cane and Jester Doll steps are practiced down the hallway, in her room in front of her closet mirrors, on the sideline at her soccer games, and on the playground at school. Performance day arrives and we spend an hour getting her into full make-up and her hair into the now-perfected ballet bun. I hold my breath as I catch a glimpse of the future in her made-up face. She quickly eats, checks her dance bag one last time for extra tights, ballet slippers, spare bobby pins, hair spray, lipstick, and her water bottle. She kisses her daddy goodbye and we are off to the theater. On the drive, I give last-minute reminders to smile, have fun, reapply her lipstick during intermission, and take it all in. She is becoming aware her role in a Holiday tradition. At the theater, I check her in the backstage door, one last kiss, a hug, and wishes for luck. She absentmindedly waves goodbye, already focusing on the task at hand.

It will be madness backstage. Costumes will be hanging on racks, awaiting dancers. Tiny gumdrops, tinier gingerbread dolls will be corralled and entertained. A TV stands in the corner so the dancers can watch what is going on onstage during the show. Younger girls look up to the older girls. The older girls look up to the pointe dancers already in their Variations costumes. A barre is on one side of the room for warm-ups. My dancer puts on her first costume and twitches the skirt into place. She puts on her mask, adjusting feathers, and takes her place on the stage.

She dances first, a solo as a Jester Doll. Gone are the days of “peeking through the window” to learn how to plie, and leaping over hula hoops.   She is becoming a real ballerina. I wonder and worry if I have pushed this into becoming her dream. Then she appears on the stage in full costume. This is bigger than my daughter dancing. This is the Nutcracker. I see her take a deep breath and then she dances. A light glows within her. A proud mom smiles past the lump in her throat and applauds her ballerina.


(photo, courtesy of Melanie Veling Photography, of the Princess in her Peach Blossom costume for Nutcracker 2013)

Friday Favorites #13

First off, isn’t it great I missed a week awhile back and didn’t have Friday Favorites #13 on Friday the 13th? I’m not much of a superstitious person, but that would be a bit much even for me. Second, today, well this whole entire week actually, has been insane. The open tabs at the top of my screen number in the 20’s right now.  If I accidentally include a link to the ballet trunks my daughter needs for Nutcracker, you’ll know why, and I apologize in advance. Third, I learned today that taking a dog and a cat to the vet at the same time – even with the cat secured in a carrier – is a lot like taking three kids to have their Holiday portraits done. STRESSED!!! And sopping with sweat by the time we were done. Doesn’t help it’s 82 degrees on November 20th.

What are all my American blogging friends doing for Thanksgiving? Can I just tell you how excited I am to not set a 5:45am alarm for a week? My joy over that is exceeded only by that of not dealing with dropoff or pickup lines for nine days. And the dance studio is closed all week, outside of a corps rehearsal for Nutcracker on Monday  morning, and her usual class/rehearsal marathon tomorrow. I get to see my Daddy, which makes me one very happy girl.  And the kids and I -maybe Spouse too, if he’s so inclined – will go see the last Hunger Games movie, which has become a Thanksgiving tradition for us over the last few years. Anyone seen it yet? Is it good? Please, please, please, let it be good!

But I digress……

Lots of good reads out there today. I was trying to read and select quickly, but my feed kept loading with new posts. So today’s list is a little long. Take a gander at a few at least. They’re worth it.

  1.  A Momma’s View shared probably one of the most amazing messages to come out of last week’s attacks in Paris. Would that we all could be a little more like this man who has lost so much, but refuses to give the terrorists what they want most, our fear and hatred.
  2. OM at Harsh Reality frequently gives bloggers the opportunity to share their links. He’s an awesome encourager of writers, and he’s great at networking. He responds quickly to comments. And he’s just a great guy in general. Go read, and share your link! It’s an easy way to connect with other bloggers. His blog reviews are spot on as well.
  3. Matt on Not-Wordpress posted a gorgeous photo, especially if you’re a fan of libraries and books. This looks like my personal heaven.
  4. Another photo caught my attention today, this one at The Daily Blabber.  I love turtles! And this feels a lot like my life in that dropoff loop.
  5. If you don’t like peanut butter and chocolate together, I’m afraid we can’t be friends. This recipe posted on Be Like Water looks incredible. I’ll be trying this out, for sure. Oh, those pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes I pointed out last week…..ahhhhh…..ambrosia.
  6. Please, please go read My Least Favorite Child Today, particularly if you need something lighthearted and hilarious. I had Irish twins, I can’t imagine what having twins is like. He brings it home. And there’s just something about dad’s writing about their kids.
  7. Holley at  Chasing Destino shared Chapter 1. I am intrigued. Why is she in the boat? Who’s blood is it? I WANT MORE Holley!!!!
  8. Mr. Mum is a stay-at-home dad. Maybe I relate because I’m a stay-at-home mom (which is a huge oxymoron, because I’m almost never actually “at home”).  Anyhoooo…he wrote today about his life these days, and how his “job” probably isn’t anything like his younger self imagined. I go through this a lot. Can you relate? Are you what you thought you’d be when you grew up?
  9. Geoff at TanGental writes some amazing stuff. His short story this morning…just wow. Have  you stayed in touch with people who were such a huge part of your life way back when? Do you know their hardships? Their accomplishments? And do we really see people when we see them?
  10. Fisticuffs and Shenanigans showed supreme self-awareness with this post this morning. Teachers are awesome, just sayin.
  11. I did not know that the Macy’s in Union Square in San Francisco did their Holiday windows with rescue pets up for adoption. If I didn’t already have a herd, I’d probably head up there.  Cute Overload is spreading awareness.
  12. Jacqueline at a cooking pot and twistedtales was talking Bond this morning, James Bond…and Bond girls. Who’s your favorite Bond, and if you could be a Bond girl, which would it be?
  13. And who doesn’t love golden/English golden retriever pups, or jewels? Here’s your double-dose of Cute Overload for the week. Aren’t those faces just precious?

Crackers!!! That was 13 links on Friday Favorites #13. Now I’m REALLY glad #13 wasn’t last week on Friday the 13th. Creepy!!

Happy Friday!