Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Moments I Live For

I love my job, but some days are so hard. Students tell you things that break your heart or you tell them things that break their hearts of they make a bonehead decision that makes you want to break your head on a wall. Sometimes I spend days staring at a computer alone with data and words on a page. These are not my favorite days. But then...there are the moments I live for.

In classes, you see students start to think like teachers. The light clicks on and they realize school may not be exactly how they remember it. Or they realize students make need more than a textbook. Those are great moments. But the real moment is when you sit in a real classroom, with real kids, and you see your student teacher become just a teacher. Students are learning and you see this young woman go from being nervous and mentally checking off boxes to loving what she's doing and just doing it. And you sit back, I sit back, and watch it all happen. And it may not be technically perfect, but it's perfection. Yesterday was one of those moments, and I will forever be grateful that these students invite me in to see them become teachers.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

West Coast

Yesterday was the heart post about West Coast, so I thought I would post today about some of the actual events. Here's the deal. Per usual, I took no pictures since it was a major event. Thankfully, the rest of the team did. What would I do without these ladies?

Issa only competed one dance, and that was hip hop on Saturday night:
So much cuteness. Let me tell you, this was a different group than what performed at Nuvo. They brought high energy and much more precision, and they ended the night with four stars, almost five stars. We were very proud of this group!

Saturday morning, though, the girls headed into convention:
Issa was number 481, and this was her first full convention. These little angels danced from 8-2 with a thirty minute lunch break for two days.

Their first teacher was Miss Amy, and if she looks familiar that would be because she just won So You Think You Can Dance:
She is also the sweetest, most hands on teacher they had. She did their first classes both Saturday and Sunday, and she danced with every girl, making corrections and encouraging. Sunday, she also signed a picture for each of the girls.

This is Issa's jazz teacher later Saturday morning:
He was so fun and so encouraging. Issa also totally kicked herself in the head doing a scorpion leap during this class.

This is CJ, the hip hop teacher:
He just finished a tour with Beiber, and he is headed out with Christina Aguilara next week. He was also so fun and so kind to these minis.

Miss Lauren with her Tinys:
I can not say enough wonderful things about this woman. I will be forever grateful she is Issa's dance teacher, and I am so glad that Issa is doing her solo with her. She pushes and yet loves these girls fiercely--and they love her.

Miss Elizabeth, the ballet teacher:
Issa is fighting it, but ballet is a strength for her. Last night, Miss Lauren cancelled classes but held an optional ballet class, and after some time with Miss Elizabeth, Issa wanted to go. Elizabeth was able to do more for her dance posture in an hour than I have seen all year, and even Miss Lauren noticed it last night.

Mr. Jason, the tap teacher:
He had a unique way of teaching tap by naming the steps after candy bars--one sound per syllable.

Mr. Eddie, the musical theater teacher:
Issa loved this class! It was also during this class that a tiny little mouse made an appearance in the room. Thankfully it was under the moms' chairs, and Mr. Eddie moved the girls so easily to the other side of the room that they didn't know what was going on. Our group sprang into action shooing him out the door, and about halfway through we heard him say, "You all are witnessing the best performance of the weekend right now." 

Miss Amy and our girls:
What impressed me was, with one exception, the entire faculty was truly able to meet the girls where they were and push them further. They truly cared about these little dancers, wanting them to grow and have fun. It was a great weekend, and Issa can hardly wait to go back next year.

Monday, February 24, 2014

To My Dancer


Some times, I find that there is so much that I want to say to you, but I know your seven year old self just isn't quite ready to hear it yet. Although I sometimes think you are such an old soul, you are still so very young, and I don't want to overwhelm you. But...I do want to say it, so I write it. And I hope against hope that in the teen years when we are at each others' throats (I'm a realist), maybe, just maybe, you will stumble upon one of these letters and be reminded that I love you more than life itself, and I am so, so grateful I am your mama. And so....

We just spent an incredible weekend at the West Coast dance convention. We ordered room service, E600ed some faulty iron-ons onto a bag you were designing, and I watched you dance for 48 hours. We laughed--really laughed. One of my favorite moments was lying in the dark, each exhausted and snuggling in our beds, and listening to you giggle and giggling right with you. There, in that moment, I felt Grace. Even though we had struggled with eye liner and glared at each other about hair, there was Grace. In that moment, I knew 110% that you knew you were loved. And that, my sweet girl, is what I want for you.

This dance world you are in, this world you so belong in and shine in, can be cruel. You are constantly measured and compared. It would be easy to feel like you are not enough. But baby girl, you are enough. You will always be a enough just by being you.

At one point, one of your master teachers this weekend said your parents wouldn't always be there to cheer you on. It was the only time all weekend I wanted to say something in class. Issa, I will always, always be there to cheer you on. There will be a day, I pray a long, long time from now, that I won't be in a seat, but know that I will be with you. Always. I am trying to put a piece of me that is so big into your heart that you will always, always feel it. When you fall on your butt on stage, whatever stage that may be, know that I will be the one cheering because you tried hard enough that you fell. When the world jumps to their feet applauding you, I will be leading the ovation. And if you ever, ever start to feel as though you are not enough, I will be there to shake you and tell you that you are absolutely enough, and I couldn't be more proud of you.

All my love,

Your dance mom

Thursday, February 20, 2014


You will be glad to know the shoes were found and we had a much better morning this morning. Issa has also cleaned up her room. It's a start.

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Issa and I are headed out of town for another dance convention. I think it will do both of us good to have a little girl time. This mother/daughter stuff is not for the faint of heart, and I see her pulling away already--just a little and in a very healthy way. That doesn't make it easy, though, and she's such a little me that we have the potential to really lock horns. I'm learning. She's learning. And I think a few days away will build some more memories to get us through those moments we might not otherwise. My goal is to say yes as much as reasonable and let her lead. I'm sure it will be an adventure...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Underbelly of Motherhood

So...everyone knows that the big moments of letting go are terribly hard for we moms. Kindergarten. Middle School. High School. You get the idea.

There's another kind of letting go, though, that could possibly be the death of me. It's the release of responsibility. Twice this week, Issa has been unable to locate something because she has put it somewhere screwy. It's her room; her stuff; her responsibility. Monday night, it was her pink ballet tights. We found them wadded up dirty under her bed. She put on tan tights, pink leg warmers, and all was well. No one said a word to her.

This morning, she couldn't find her tennis shoes and it's a PE day. We helped her look for a bit, but eventually we had to go to school. She wore her boots. I'm sure I'm the only parent in the world that is hoping the PE teacher nails her, but she won't. It's the first time in two years Issa hasn't had tennis shoes for PE day. We told Issa she was now on her own to find them when she got home, and there was no tv until she did find them. Her response, "Okay." She was unfazed. She actually skipped into school.

Enter the mom guilt. I should be glad she went to school happy, but I'm fuming she can't find her damn shoes. I should be glad she found an alternative solution for her tights issue, but I'm pissed she even needed to. If I'm really honest, I'm more than a smidge worried that other people will wonder why the hell I didn't make sure she had the right things.

This is the underbelly of motherhood. Trying to raise resilient kids but then being frustrated when they aren't as rattled by things that you think they should be. Trying to teach responsibility in the shadow of a fear of judgement. It sucks. Plain and simple. I would love to be more eloquent, but I also want to keep this space real, and this is just where I am right now.

I know I'm exhausted, which is compounding all of this, and I know I need to get myself out of this pit...and I'm trying. But I'm also trying to give myself permission to feel it right now. There is clearly something I need to learn here; I've come to recognize this pit as growing pain. I know I need to learn to let go, which is easier said than done for my type-A self. I also know this is a self-check. Why am I so worried about what other people think? Am I giving myself the same grace I give others? Why not? These are the questions I'm wrestling with right now. It's uncomfortable, but growing always is.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valentine's Love

Valentine's Day is not a super huge deal in our house, but we couldn't let the day go by uncelebrated, either. Friday morning, the kids woke up to hearts in their doorways:
This was Evan's:
And Issa's:
I started doing something like this last year, where we list reasons we love them or things we love about them or doing with them in their doorways on Valentine's Day morning. They love reading them, and I have seen Issa rereading them every day this week.

Saturday, Brad and I went to see The Book of Mormon, which was very fun, and Sunday we celebrated as a whole family. We used to go to Build-a-Bear, but the one close to us closed. After much family discussion, we settled on a new tradition of decorating the house and making heart shaped pizzas:
There is red crepe paper and way too many balloons all over the downstairs, but the kids had fun. I love that this is what they came up with for the new tradition--something simple and in our home. I think I'll keep them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow Day, Part Two

Friday, we enjoyed one more snow day. The kids were desperate to build a snowman:
 It was not great packing snow, but we started with snowballs the plows had made, which made the whole endeavor possible. Before long, the neighborhood had joined in:
 And Evan had checked out:
 He likes snowmen, but the building of one is not so exciting. There was snow that needed bulldozing.

The girls were very proud of Olaf Junior:
 As soon as he was finished, they were back on the sleds:
 I love that face:
 And we went back to the big hill one more time. These boys are buddies:
The kids all had a blast, and by Friday afternoon we could go to dance and the library. By this morning, it's mostly all gone aside from what the plows piled up. It was great fun, but I'm quite glad we are all back in school and back into the routine.

Tomorrow, I'll share our big Valentine's Day celebrations!

Friday, February 14, 2014


We had an absolutely fabulous snow day yesterday. We started out in our front yard:
 You can see how deep it was based on Viv's legs. In the morning, we had about six inches with a decent layer of ice on top. If you kept moving, you could walk on top of it.

The kids started sledding down our little ditch while I attempted to shovel the front walk:
 The speed was amazing because of the ice:
 Issa also collected snow for snow cream!
 Pretty soon, many of the neighbors started coming out with sleds. Mr. Patrick, one of the dads, started pulling the kids on sleds down the road and letting go so they would go flying. It was great fun until Issa face planted in an ice bank. She has a bit of a scraped up face, but she jumped right back on without missing a beat!

After many attempts on flat surfaces, we decided we needed a hill. Three families, us included, headed down to the end of the street to sled down our road. It's a pretty decent little hill, and half the neighborhood had the same idea:

 Issa was so sweet. I don't know how many times she pulled Evan up and down that hill. Mr. Patrick, who is really a big kid himself, decided we needed an even bigger hill! So...we went to a construction site up the road and sledded their fill pile:
 Evan was a trooper. I have no idea how many times he went up and down:
 He was one happy camper:
 Issa wanted none of that hill, though.

Eventually, the kids were exhausted and we started getting some freezing rain, so it was time to head home. Mr. Patrick hauled the three littlest:
 Ms. Meg and Ms. Allison pulled the bigger girls:
I was the dedicated photographer. I totally got the better end of this deal!

It was so fun. I loved playing in the snow with the neighbors, and so did the kids.

In the afternoon, we made snow cream and watched another three inches fall. And now...we're off to build a snowman!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowed In

We are officially, officially snowed in. I don't think I could get the van out if I wanted to--which I don't.

We got about seven inches of snow and then about a half an inch of ice. The ice on top is so solid Viv can walk across the surface of the snow. Thankfully, we maintained power through the whole thing, although we were ready with flashlights, candles, and a fire set in the fireplace. There are thousands without power, though, and we are praying for them that it comes on quickly. We are only in the 20s and have three more inches of snow coming this afternoon. Thankfully...we live in NC and it's supposed to be 50 tomorrow.

I will say, I have been getting six million texts all morning with friendly advice about the weather from people who know Brad is in AZ until tomorrow. Y'all. This is not my first snow. We're good. Promise. I am extremely grateful for great people who worry about us, but I'm okay. If I'm totally honest, it gets a little frustrating. I'm quite certain no one would be texting Brad advice if I was the one travelling. I think it's good for both of my kids to see that mom, a girl, can handle this, too. Rant over.

Now, we have some sledding to do...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm a Southerner

We are bracing for another snow/ice/freezing rain debacle. I sent the kids in this morning knowing they are coming home early. Last night, we got a phone call from Issa's school stating they would be closing no later than 11. read that correctly. The time right now is 11, but they might move that up. They will try to give us thirty minutes' notice. Needless to say, I'm working from home since my commute is about thirty minutes on a good day.

We stocked up pretty well on our last grocery trip knowing this was coming, but we got word Monday that Issa was in fact having a Valentine's Day party, which meant we needed Valentine's and juice boxes, which meant I had to brave the store the day before a get Valentine's. Those two events should not coincide--EVER.

The kids and I pulled in to a parking spot after much hunting and headed in to the store. At that point, we discovered there were no carts. We hadn't seen any in the parking lot, either. That should tell you the general state of the aisles.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I told the kids I would buy them each a pack of their very own gum if they could help me carry what we needed and asked for nothing else. We started in the Valentine aisle, and every mother standing there had the same "please help me" face. Issa made a selection in record time, and we headed to the juice boxes. At this point, I realized the water shelves were completely empty, which started some Southern part of my brain twitching.

Next thing I know we are picking up milk, bread, wine, and cupcakes. I can't explain the cupcakes. It just felt right.

We made it to the check-out and home relatively unscathed...and I realized I have become part of the grocery before a storm problem.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Soloist

Friday, Issa had her first solo lesson at the studio. She is working on a short piece for the recital this spring, and then she will build upon it to compete it next year. She has chosen a ballet-ish musical theater piece to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman." Needless to say, I think it is going to be super cute.

We really weren't entirely sure what to expect with these Friday lessons, but they may become my very favorite part of the week. I love to watch Issa work. You can see her little mind going as her teacher works to correct technique and push her just a little bit. And man can she work. She pushes to stretch a little more or hold the pose a little longer. She came out tired by excited with goals for the week and specific things for me to help her with when she works at home. We made a deal that if we did solo lessons she would practice solo stuff for ten minutes a day. So far, she's all in, and she has asked me to help rather than me reminding her to do it. She even asked Daddy for a ballet bar in her room, and he is already building it.

I know we will hit walls, and I know some weeks will be better than others. But...I am so excited to watch my little soloist grow.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on the couch watching the Olympics, and suddenly I heard the door to the garage fly open and slam shut. Then I heard what sounded like a herd. Evan ran past the couch on his way upstairs shouting, "This is my friend, Parker, we're going to get stuff." And the herd ran upstairs.

Now, we know Parker. He lives across the street and a couple of houses down, and he's only a couple of weeks younger than Evan. This was the first time the boys had really played, though. I think they are finally old enough to make neighborhood friends. Pretty soon, they came flying back past followed by the same slamming door. Brad was out working in the garage, and Issa was playing out front with her neighborhood friends, so I settled back in to watch more skating.

A few minutes later, I hear the same slamming of doors and a bigger herd: "This is Henry. We need more stuff," and three little boys went thundering up my steps. Henry is two weeks younger than Parker and lives three doors down. The herd slammed back outside briefly before they came slamming back inside: "We need marshmallows! We're all making marshmallow guns with Daddy!"

This got me off the couch. I found the marshmallows and followed the herd outside. Parker's mom and Henry's dad were waiting in the garage and sure enough there were big plans for marshmallow guns. I wish I had grabbed my camera. Brad was masterful as he helped the boys cut PVC pipe and fit the pieces together. All the parents were laughing as we watched three little boys shoot marshmallows across the yard.

The impromptu block party led to all manner of skateboards and balls and bicycles strewn across yards. The girls and boys played while parents chatted and stopped the occasional bad idea (mostly from the boys). It was beautiful. As the temperature started to drop, we sorted out what belonged to which house and made plans for many more block parties and we dragged very tired children home.

We've always been grateful that Issa had neighborhood friends and a network of parents watching, and now it appears that Evan will have the same thing. And watching these boys, I think it's going to take a village to watch over this orneriness.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's More Than Dance

On the way home from dance, Issa confided that one of her teammates had shared that she was having some trouble at school. Issa was pretty sure it was a bully, and she wanted my help. First, parenting win. I always hope that the kids truly hear when we talk about problems that need grown-ups and us being part of their team, but when Issa actually asked I was so grateful.

We got home and I texted her mom Issa's concerns, and her mom texted back that with a few questions she found out there was indeed a bully, and now they can start working on the problem. The nets had worked.

That in and of itself is a happy ending. Our girls are truly learning the meaning of friendship, and they are learning there is a network of families that are there to support and be the safety nets.

And that's the thing. Every once in a while, more often than I would like, someone makes comments about me being a dance mom and how they could never do that and oh the drama and on and on and on. I would be lying if I said there was never any drama, but to think it's like that stupid tv show is beyond ludicrous.

The Truth: I'm a dance mom. Yes, that means I stone costumes and knox buns and apply eye liner and live at the studio. Yes, that means I can name three websites for great dance wear and I haul a Dream Duffle bigger than my child. That's the surface, though. It also means I am a dance mom to several other girls who know I'm there if they need help or just need a ponytail--and Issa can name several of her own other dance moms that would do the same for her. And here's the beauty, I trust these women implicitly. We share a connection through a studio, but we also share the value of hard work, dedication, and teaching our girls that they are strong and capable. We are teaching them about confidence and friendship and loyalty and sisterhood because we live it week in and week out. At some point, each of the girls has hit a wall, and her team has rallied around her. At some point, every one of we moms have hit a wall, and our team rallied around her--around me.

So, yes, I'm a dance mom. And I'm damn proud of it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Great Team

So...we need to have a little work done in our crawl space. We've known it was coming, and it seems as though now is the time.

Brad has been running point on this for obvious reasons, but one of the people we are getting a quote from insisted that we both be there when he went through our options. We set a time yesterday afternoon, and about fifteen minutes in I'm pretty sure the poor man was wishing he had just met with Brad.

Here's the deal. Brad and I have been together since 1998. To say we know each other is a mastery of understatement. This poor fellow was going through his pitch, and I looked at Brad across the table. Game on. I know what the look means. Brad liked what he was seeing as far as the work, but the price was insane.

I have gotten really good at playing the poor Southern belle. I can ask for the most ridiculous things while looking like I don't know they are ridiculous. So...I started pitching all manner of combinations of what they could do versus what we could do. Brad can run numbers in his head faster than anyone I know. A call to the manager and a few more haggles and we had cut the price by nearly half with them still doing the work. When the poor fellow stepped out to call the manager we agreed we were really sure he was wishing someone else had gotten this pitch.

Brad is getting two more estimates today, but we will probably go with the quote from yesterday just because we have a history with the company.

Really, the work is secondary, though. I love being part of this team.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Old Maid

Sometimes, I forgot how important the simple things are. In the midst of homework and dinner and dishes I can get swept up in the just get through it phase of parenting. The I just need to get them in bed so we can start all this again tomorrow hurry. Efficiency reigns. Sure we have snuggles and lots of conversation, but the clock becomes the dictator.

When I get caught in that hurry, I'm especially glad to be married to a man that sometimes forgets there is a clock. It used to drive me crazy, but I'm learning to appreciate Brad-time. Last night after dinner, I was mentally starting the time to tuck checklist when Daddy consented to a rousing game of Old Maid, which is possibly my least favorite game--right up there with Candyland. I shot him the "you have to be kidding me look," and then settled in to watch them play.

As I watched, really watched, I couldn't help but care a little less about the clock. The giggles every time the Old Maid passed back and forth were priceless, and when Evan threw his head back laughing when he pulled her from Issa's hand, I was reminded that bed time could wait. These were memories, and we were all laughing--really laughing. The kids got to bed a little late, but they went to bed happy and loved. And at the end of the day, that's what really matters.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Weekend Wrap-Up List

It was just one of those weekends...

1. Issa was in fact fine Friday. Getting rid of the foul water bottle solved her problem, and we were able to enjoy our little Chinese New Year feast.

2. Daddy came home Friday night, and we spent Saturday have a family fun day. We got hair cuts, went out to lunch, got new shoes, and went to the grocery. As I'm typing, I realize that to most people that's not much of a fun day, but we had a blast.

3. Saturday night, Daddy made Issa a special celebratory dinner for her report card. She rocked it out again this quarter, and we couldn't be more proud! She requested his Alfredo and chocolate lava cakes. Well done, sister.

4. Sunday, we declared it a much needed family pajama and snuggle day. We spent most of it on the couch playing games and watching football. It's the one day a year when we all pretend we really love football. The boys watch more, but Issa and I are fine with one day. We had all chosen the Seahawks for the win, but Issa and I actually started to feel badly for Manning. The close-ups of his face throughout the game were just pitiful.

5. The alarms actually went off at normal time today. No more snow. No one was very excited to hear them.

6. Here's to a perfectly normal week--I could use one!