Holy wow – After that ridiculously long countdown to real summer, we have just two weeks before the Herd heads back to school. (insert bad words here) Where in the ever lovin where did summer go?

We’ve had an incredibly busy, super fun summer, but it has flown by. We’ve rolled from one thing right into the next, or at least I have. School finally ended for Little Man. The following Monday, he started tech camp. Big Man and the Princess were never really “off” as – I may have mentioned this before – high school sports continue to practice through summer. The last day of tech camp, we went to the showcase presentation, and then hit the road for Palm Springs. We spent four glorious days poolside, hanging out with our friends and neighbors who joined us, eating, drinking, sunbathing, reading, playing games, and golfing.  It was HOT, but we don’t care when we’re there. We’re in or right next to the pool all day long.

I was home for 1.5 days, then left for my summer scrapbooking retreat in  Big Bear. In four days there, I managed to finish my 2015 book, as well as our Spring Break Utah trip book. (pats self on back) It was much-needed momma time with friends. We walked by the lake each morning, talked, ate, laughed, and scrapbooked. The only bummer was our usual massage therapist wasn’t able to be there due to injury. I’d so been looking forward to that 90-minute massage. Sigh….other than that, it was a beautiful weekend.

After Big Bear, I spent three days running around like a crazed person, getting the house ready for a cousin invasion. Nine of them began arriving on Wednesday. They trickled in until Saturday, when we had everyone here. Did I mention that was also recital weekend? Yeah, that. We had five fun-filled, busy days. Oh, I won’t lie – we did take plenty of time to sit in or next to our pool, but we were definitely on the go for much of the time.

The day after cousins left, my bestie and her four teens arrived for a week-long visit. We didn’t really stop from the minute they arrived, but oh my… much fun! We forget how awesome our city is until people are here and we’re taking them all over. We hit Mission Beach, they kayaked La Jolla Cove, we went to the movies, spent a day in Coronado (on the beach and at the beach bar at the Hotel Del where there was a Norman Reedus (aka Daryl from Walking Dead) sighting (it was ComiCon weekend in San Diego and a bunch of stars were staying at the Hotel), watched the ponies race in Del Mar, golfed our club (K and I rode along while our spouses golfed), went wine tasting in Ramona (you get premium service when your FIL is the President of the Ramona Valley Vintner Association), and took in a Padres game. Yes, all of that. The day they left, I had a work event. I got home that evening and absolutely crashed.

This is the longest break we’ve had all summer……and I leave tomorrow for five days in Chicago. More fun…..a day a Lollapalooza, some beach time if the weather permits, and a Cubs game, not to mention more time (sans children this visit) with the bestie! Then I’ll be home for two days before we leave for a long weekend at my parents’ in Phoenix. We’re home from that trip for two days and the kids go back to school.

Are you tired? Cuz I’m tired. We’ve blasted through this summer, rollin from one fun thing to the next. I think I need a summer to recover from this summer. We’ve had pool time, bbq’s, baseball games, beach days, and movies. We’ve spent time with family and friends. We’ve soaked it all in, taking full advantage of every minute. I can’t believe it’s ending in two weeks, and we’ll be in for another long haul of a school year. I’ll put the pool towels and basket of sunscreen away, tuck the beach chairs onto their hooks in the garage, stow the cornhole game in its case, and say goodbye to summer 2017.

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.

She Fell

We’ve wrapped Recital Weekend 2015. The Princess is taking a recovery day, sleeping in late, and resting mostly.  It’s been a long, hectic week.  Her costumes have been put away, her makeup box stowed, her flowers sit in a vase on the kitchen counter, and we are left with the memories of the weekend.

I sat in the theater for her dances during dress rehearsal on Thursday night. I found myself tearing up with each number. I was texting my sister, who is also mom to a ballerina, and it  hit me why I was so emotional watching her. She isn’t playing at dance anymore. Yes, she does still do it for fun, but it’s real now. She IS a dancer. Recitals and shows are routine. She doesn’t need my help to keep her costumes and all their parts together. She doesn’t need me there to reapply her lipstick. I don’t have to put her dance bag together, fill her water bottle, check for all her shoes and tights. She does it herself. She even did her own hair and makeup this year, including false eyelashes – a bane of my existence. She manages prep for quick changes. This is her gig. i’m not really needed, except for transport, and time is running out on even that job. She’s a dancer.

She performed her competition solo during the show Friday night. I was watching, not volunteering, for that show. About twenty seconds into her routine, her foot got caught on her skirt in a jump, and she fell. She hit the ground hard, with a loud “thunk.” Spouse whispered in my ear, “Was that supposed to happen?” “No,” I said. Thoughts flew threw my mind in those milliseconds, knowing if she got up, it would be okay, needing her to get up and keep going. She did get up, and she finished her dance. She probably danced it better than I’ve ever seen her dance it, and trust me, I’ve seen her dance it a thousand times.

It never crossed my mind to go backstage to her after she finished. Whether injured or not, I knew there were people back there to handle it. I’ve learned over the years of my children playing sports it’s best to leave it to coaches and teachers. I stay on the sidelines unless and until the person in charge says otherwise. So I didn’t go backstage. I didn’t check my phone. About ten minutes later, with a few numbers left to intermission, I took Little Man out to the lobby. He was in the middle of a meltdown. We weren’t out there for two minutes when one of the moms volunteering backstage came running up to me, telling me they’d been looking for me since Princess came offstage. I rushed back to find her in the hallway, ice on her knee, leg elevated. I could tell she had been crying – her false eyelashes had fallen off, and most of her eye makeup wiped away.  Her directors, teacher, parent volunteers backstage, and dance friends had been there for her, calmed her down, and put her back together. She was putting her hair up in a ballet bun in preparation for the second half of the show. She had no intention of sitting it out.

I helped get her back to her dressing room, where her classmates took her under their wing and got her ready.  I went back to the audience, and watched her finish the night without faltering.  She’s badly bruised, but nothing is broken nor torn. She made it through yesterday’s show with the aid of a knee brace for cushioning. I hadn’t realized until yesterday how many times that knee hits the floor in all her dances. I flinched every single time.

While I wish I had been there for her in the moment, I know I couldn’t have done any more for her than was done by those who were with her. She’s growing up. There will be more and more times coming when I will not be there, cannot be there.  I am so proud of her for carrying on, finishing the show, and then going through it all again yesterday.  I’m proud of the way she handled herself in the moment of the fall. I’m thankful for the studio we are part of and how much of a family it is. I’m grateful for directors and teachers who truly care about my little girl.

Slipping through my fingers

The Princess has recital next week. We are in the big middle of preparations, altering what costumes need altering, planning a trip to the dance wear store for shoes, tights, eyelashes, and whatever else she may need. She has pictures this afternoon, and needs to arrive at the studio in hair, make-up, and costume (one of seven).  I still do most of her make-up. I stood there, doing her eyes, looking eye-to-eye at her, and remembered so vividly when she was teeny-tiny, and I had to put her up on the tall stool to do her make-up.  Before long, I’ll need her to sit on the tall stool so I can reach her face without looking up.

Where does it go? The time, I mean? We’ve been doing this for ten years. I clearly recall the little girl with the toddler belly, dressed up in her pink ballet costume, tiny ballet slippers on her feet, grinning ear-to-ear as she took the stage. Now she is nearly as tall as I, in pointe shoes, one of the “big girls” at the studio.

As she watched her cousin get married a couple of weeks ago, I could see her mentally cataloging things, taking notes in her head for her wedding years (and hopefully many years) from now. It’s too fast. She is closer to an adult than not. We have five years until she heads off to college – years I know will fly by even more quickly than the last thirteen. I remember bringing her home from the hospital, dressed in pink from head to toe. I remember getting to know her likes, her dislikes, her varied cries, her laugh, her spirit, her personality. I remember her first words, her first steps, the crazy way she would fall asleep wherever she was. And now we look eye-to-eye. She has her own mind. She has her own opinions.

I’m grateful the gift of being her mom, of the privilege of watching her grow up, the ability to be a spectator to her becoming. But oh how there are moments I long for more time with that teeny-tiny girl in the little pink leotard and tiny pink slippers. tinyballerina AI9R3063