Monday, February 29, 2016


We spent all day Saturday--like left the house at 6:30 am and returned at 11:30 pm--at the Thunderstruck Dance Competition in Greensboro. It made for a very long day, but it was also a great day! 

As we were settling in to the changing room, Mrs. Lauren handed Issa this:
 I love that her teachers took the time to make a card for the dancers! Issa was thrilled. She danced all morning with great results! Jazz and tap took Lightning Gold (the highest award), and jazz actually won best dance for their age group! Lyrical and her solo took high gold. This was the first time she competed this solo, and she did so well! It was the best I've ever seen her dance anything on stage, and she nailed her double!

We had a nice break in the early afternoon, so we went to lunch a nearby pub:
 The best prop dad and brother were along for the morning, too:
 After lunch, the boys headed home for a break and we girls watched our team dance. The boys made it back to do props and see production, which also took Lightning Gold! And...our studio took Top Studio:
I couldn't be more proud of these girls. They left it all on the stage and were so supportive of each other. I can't wait to see what the rest of the season holds for them...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two Piece of My Heart

Yesterday, I was very much reminded that there are two very large portions of my heart that walk around outside of my body.

If there is anything that is predictable in North Carolina, it is the unpredictability of the weather. They had been saying all week that yesterday could hold some strong thunderstorms and tornadoes. I had been watching. I went in to work, but by 11 I realized I had no more meetings and I could take my work home. The rain was coming down pretty hard, and some schools were beginning to release early because the stronger storms were coming.

By the time I crossed into our county, the sun was shining. I went home and set up my laptop in front of the tv so I could keep an eye on the weather. All the weathermen were assuring me that our county was not in for the major stuff. The kids' school day progressed normally. They were saying we should have one strong burst around 3:30, and then it would be over. No big deal.

I got the kids off the bus at 3:15, and the sky was pretty ominous. We went home, got ready for dance and ninjitsu, and started on homework. Right on cue, the skies opened up at 3:25. Shortly thereafter, the emergency siren howled on my phone. I turned the tv back on, and sure enough we were right in the center of a tornado warning.

I am so grateful we deep purged the house! The kids, Neela, and I easily climbed into our closet under the stairs. I was so proud of my kids. They were so calm, gathering Baboo and Booboo. We read books by flashlight, and my 3:50, the all clear sounded. Our ditches were flooded, but the sun was out. Birds were singing. We went on with our day.

I dropped Issa off at the studio, and Evan and I headed to the dojo. When we were five minutes away from the dojo, the siren went off again on my phone. It was pure grace that got me the rest of the way to the dojo. My head knew it was the safest option, but my heart wanted to race back to my girl.

We walked into the dojo, and I assured Evan of all the places we could be in a potentially bad moment, this was the place to be. I had trained survivalists and retired Marines around me! Mr. Justin read my face, and asked if I was okay. I told him Issa was at the studio. I finally cracked, though, when he put his hand on my shoulder, "I'm not going to let you leave. But, if something happens, as soon as it's over I'll get you to her." I know he would have, too.

We hunkered down at the dojo, and let me tell you, Mr. Bryan, Mr. Griffin, and Mr. Justin are a team. As we were heading into the hall, we saw the funnel cloud--thankfully Evan didn't. It appeared to be moving away, but Griffin stayed out to watch it. If it turned, the plan was for the three of them to grab the thick crash pads and form an extra wall around us. 

As we were sitting on the floor, telling the kids there was nothing to worry about--also known as lying through our teeth--I was texting people I knew at the studio to check on Issa. The weather was much better there, and this may be my new favorite picture:
I will never be able to thank Paula enough. Knowing all was well and she was safe was all that held me together.

Within five minutes, the storm passed and we were in the clear again. The sun came out. It was a beautiful evening.

God and I spent a lot of time talking yesterday. Prayers for safety. Prayers of gratitude. Prayers for these two pieces of my heart that walk outside of my body.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Long Game

My career is a long game approach to social justice and education reform. I believe in the power of education--beyond the trope--and I believe in the need for excellent public schools. I believe in equity. Every stage of my career has been a move towards reaching these ends. And now, I feel like I have finally found a space that has the potential for the most impact: teacher education. 

However, it is the long game. I believe excellent, empowered teachers are the true secret to reaching these goals. I believe that teacher leadership can turn the Titanic. But I get them as babies. I plant a lot of seeds. I nurture once they leave. I occasionally do a little pushing for them to step up. Speak out. But it's a long game.

But then moments like this happen:
I spend as much time in schools working with students as I can. First, it keeps me current and empathetic when I'm working with teachers. I understand the demands of the new assessments and lesson planning because I just spent way too much time trying to design a game to help accelerate a student. I remember the daily pull between curriculum and children. I learn so much from being in real classrooms, and it keeps my passion alive.

Yesterday, I was working with a reading group, and we were struggling our way through a text. But we did it--mostly. When our time was up, one of my little sprites ran to her backpack because she wanted to give me something. Then she put that little ladybug on my hand because I was a great reading teacher. Her little face was just beaming. It truly made my day.

You see, when you're playing the long game, it sure it nice to get a sticker every once in a while.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

May I introduce Persephone?

Issa's class has been studying Greek mythology, and yesterday was the culminating project. They got to choose a character from a myth and dress up. Issa chose Persephone:
The toga piece was easy! She also knew she needed one ribbon (since one was lost when she was kidnapped) and flowers in her hair since she was Demeter's daughter. (As a side note, she let me French braid her hair to tie the ribbon and flowers in; it was lovely and I wish she would let me do it more!) She also knew she needed a pomegranate since Persephone ate the seeds in Hades that trapped her there in fall and winter. Alas, pomegranates aren't really prevalent in February, so she had to settle for a cup of seeds.

She had so much fun! I think the highlight of her day was being captured in a bear hug upon arrival by her teacher, who was dressed as Hades. I love that she is in a classroom where there is still a sense of fun amidst the learning, and I sure do love this girl.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Goodbye, Sweet Friend...

Friday night, we had to say goodbye to Nuzzle...
Last summer, she started losing weight very quickly, which we knew was not a good sign. Our vet diagnosed her with the early stages of kidney failure. While there are extreme measures that might have given her a few more months, they would have greatly decreased her quality of life. We made the decision at that time to just give her the best quality of life for as long as we could; the vet estimated six months and gave us key signs to watch for that would tell us the end was coming.

The past few weeks she has been drinking more, and her fur had become pretty dry, which we knew was not good. We also found her lying in odd positions. But Friday night, she made it clear it was time. When Brad walked into our bathroom, her favorite place, she tried to urinate in front of him, but it was only a trace and bloody. I knew by the way he called for me it was not good. While he was on the phone with the emergency vet, she did the same to me. When I picked her up, I knew she was in pain. It was time.

We were all able to give her lots of love and snuggles, and then Brad took her to the vet. She was at peace in the end, and we know with absolute certainty it was the right thing to do.

I also know I am devastated. Without a doubt, Nuzzle was my cat. She came into our lives Brad and I's first Christmas together. When we picked her up at the shelter, she nuzzled right into our arms and I knew she was ours. Nuzzle was so sick when we adopted her. The first time I went to bring her home she was too sick to come, and I cried and Brad left me little notes all over the apartment the next day because he knew I would be so sad to come home to an apartment without her. When she finally did come home, she was on medicine and wouldn't eat. We warmed milk and turkey baby food to help her gain strength.

Soon, she was well and so snugly. Sleeping on the bed wasn't enough. She would crawl under the covers and up my shirt to sleep. When she got bigger, she would sleep curled around my head. She would still nuzzle into our arms when we picked her up. Even Friday, she nuzzled in.

I miss her. Being in our bathroom is painful. I keep looking to the ledge, expecting to see her lying there, paw out, begging for attention. I keep listening for her insistent meow while I'm washing my face.

Even though we knew this was coming, it's just hard. She will always be my baby, and she definitely took a piece of me with her. But I wouldn't change a thing...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Just Breathe

So, I mentioned Brad and I are doing a 30 day yoga challenge. Last night, we completed day 20, and I am thrilled to say I haven't missed a single day.

Yesterday, though, was different. It was not a stellar day at the office, and Thursdays are my long days. By the time I got home, I was not in a great place. We tucked the kids into bed, and then Brad and I settled in for our practice.

About halfway through, I realized I tangibly felt different. There really is something powerful about syncing breath and movement. Sending oxygen into your body. Finding stillness. Over the past 20 days I have found myself getting stronger and more flexible, but I have also found myself becoming more mindful and breathing more deeply. It's a good thing.

Just breathe.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A New Level

So this happened last night:
It may be a little hard to tell from this picture, but Mr. Justin is teaching Evan how to be thrown. Right before this, Evan threw Mr. Justin.

The dojo has been doing more work with the camo belts, separating them from the white belts to do more advanced skills. Last night, for the first time they got to try their hands at throwing and being thrown.

I'm not gonna lie. It was a little tough to watch at first. But...I trust Mr. Justin implicitly, and it was really cool to watch him teach this skill. And to see Evan's face when he stood up. Well. That look of pure joy made every bit of nerves worth it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

And The Season Begins...

Issa and I spent this past weekend in Greenville, South Carolina for the first dance convention and competition of the season! I love this girls' weekend. I love being able to give her all of my attention; I don't think I said 20 words the entire way down. I love listening to her talk and hearing her thoughts. I also love that I can relax on the drive. This is our third trip to this convention, so we know it and the hotel so well. Friday night, we arrived in time to order our traditional room service before we went down to support our team's soloists.

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early! We ate the breakfast we had packed in, and then Issa set off for her morning of dance classes:
 She still wants me to stay and watch, and I will gladly watch as long as she will have me! It has been so wonderful to watch her become more confident and be able to pick up so much more of the choreography.

After lunch, we made a quick change into competition Issa:
 I can't believe how grown up she looked! Her team competed well:
Each dance received four out of five stars, and she was really proud of how far they had come since Showcase! We all were!

After she finished competing, we had dinner with one of her teammates before supporting our older girls. By the time we found our beds, we were both exhausted...

And then we got up Sunday morning to do it all again! She only had classes, but she danced her little feet off. I just keep thinking back to our first year, when she would look at me like she terrified, and she was so lost. It's only been three years, and she has grown so much!

By the time we were headed home, it was beginning to snow! And that was the greatest gift. The roads weren't bad, but it meant we had a snow day on Monday! It was so nice to have a day to rest and unpack before the week started--especially since it's a crazy one at work!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thank Goodness for My Village

Yesterday was one of those days where everything was held together by a thread. I had planned everything and packed everything and sent every reminder text I could think of. know what they say about the best laid plans.

I had to teach, and the kids were going to get off the bus at a neighbors, where my babysitter would get them by 4 to take Issa to dance. Issa had her dance stuff in case she was running a couple of minutes late.

Then I got the call at 3:40: 40 was shut down because of an accident, and my sitter was not at all sure she would make it. First, I took a deep breath of gratitude that she thought to call early instead of waiting until 4:20 to say she wasn't going to make it.

Start the phone chain. I called Jennifer, dance mom one, who couldn't get there because she was having a weird day, too. But, she reminded me Robin, dance mom two, also goes right past my house. I got a hold of her, and she picked up Issa and got her to dance no problem.

My neighbor was more than happy to keep Evan a little longer. All was right with the world.

But at that moment, all I could think was thank goodness for my village. There was nothing I could do from 30 minutes away, but they rallied. And I will be forever grateful.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I'm a Better Mom at 5:30am

My alarm goes off at 5:30 every morning, and I'm pretty masterful at hitting that snooze. It's so early, and my bed is so warm.

However, this week I have committed to actually getting up, and I am such a better mom because of it. When I get up that early, I'm ready, including having my devotional time and first pass through my inbox, before the kids get up. I can be fully present for their first few waking minutes. I'm not feeling rushed to do my things, therefore, I don't rush them like a crazy person.

I can get breakfast on the table, lunches packed, and snacks in backpacks before the kids come downstairs. I can give Neela some attention, put away clean dishes, and do some laundry. I can sit down and drink my coffee while they eat instead of throwing it a travel mug. No rush.

This week, because we've had calm mornings that don't start behind the eight ball, I've been better able to juggle evenings. Coming home to a clean kitchen and an occasional dinner in the crockpot means I don't start the night rushed. It just sets the tone for our family.

It's hard to hear that alarm that early, but it's so worth it. I just want to capture this feeling so that I can remind myself on the crazy weeks when I'm exhausted that it really is worth it. If my prayer is to Unrush Me, which it is, then I have to make the time to be unrushed. And that's what I plan to do.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy 101st Day!

Celebrating the 100th day of school is for kindergartners. Big first graders celebrate the 101st day of school as all 101 things should be celebrated: as Dalmatians:
They made ears yesterday at school that will be added to this cuteness. He painted the shirt all by himself. The tongue was Issa's idea. The idea of being a puppy all day was more than Evan could stand, though. He came into my bathroom at 6:20...

"Mom, my alarm hasn't gone off and it's 6:21!"

"I know. It goes off at 6:30. You woke up on your own early."

"I'm just so excited it's Dalmatian day! If I get dressed super fast will you do my nose and tongue?"

"Of course, buddy."

And he did. I've never seen him move so fast in the morning. I sure so love my little puppy--although I hope all the barking is out of his system by the time he gets home. He was really freaking out Neela this morning.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dancer Date Night

Friday night, I got a little date night with my favorite dancer:
 We spend a ton of time together, but there is something very different about intentional time away from everything just the two of us. We enjoyed a leisurely Italian dinner, during which she chatted my ears off. There is a lot going on in the fourth grade, her heart, and her head, and she openly shared it all. I pray that this is always the case.

After dinner, we met up with some of my students to attend the ballet:
It was one of our cultural events, and I'm always grateful when an extra ticket shows up and Issa can tag along. She is getting to know more and more of the girls, and I love watching her interact with them. I also loved listening to her talk about the ballet on the way home. It was a series of original pieces centered around Shakespeare's sonnets. It was a great taste of Shakespeare in the ballet before we go see Midsummer Night's Dream this spring!

It was a great night, and I'm looking forward to our girls' weekend this Friday! We are headed to the first convention of the year, and we have big plans! How I love this girl and the person she is becoming.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Favorite Seminar

Last night was my very favorite seminar of the year. It's the seminar in which I invite last year's grads to come and talk with my current juniors.

These ladies left us last May as teachers, but they come back in February as teachers. They have lived their first semester, and they are confident, incredible teachers. I love their honesty, and I love hearing their stories. I especially love seeing how they have grown into themselves. You can see shadows of previous mentors, but they have really come into their own.

And then I look at my juniors, who are in the hardest year of their lives, and I see them smile. I see them breathe a little bit, and I hear them laugh. The graduates become their light and their confidence boost.

And then my freshmen come in at the end, all bright eyed and a little over-whelmed and lost, but for the first time I really see them see the future as a reality. As a flesh and blood possibility of what will come.

It's magic. And I would be lying if I said I didn't have to bite my lip a time or two. These students become my kids, and while I love to launch them out into the world, my heart bursts when I see them all together again and doing so very well. It's a wondrous thing.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


So...Brad and I are nothing if not goal driven. You throw down a gauntlet, we will pick it up.

Brad had a terrible mattress on his last work trip, and his back was killing him in the hotel. He decided to try a little yoga, and it really did help. As it turns out, it was a 30 day yoga challenge. He came home, told me about it, and he graciously agreed to start over at day 1 with me. Gauntlet accepted.

Now, right after we tuck the kids in, he and I do our yoga practice together. It's lovely for a lot of reasons. We are on day 6, and I can certainly feel a difference. Some of it is stress and tension relief, and some of it is muscles reminding me they are there. I also love the commitment to the mat every evening. It's a nice end to the day. And doing it with him, well, I'll take any extra time I can get with my favorite man.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I think I am officially recovered from my adventures in Wonderland--minus a few bruises on the back of my calves from the flower bed.

You see, every four years the faculty at Meredith produce Alice in Wonderland for our students. Last week, I spent the evenings rehearsing for my first appearance. I was a flower:
 Thankfully, I was part of a whole patch:
Our role was to provide commentary on the events on stage via signs and props. I called Alice a nerd as she was reciting poetry, and we ducked under umbrellas anytime the word dog was mentioned. You get the idea.

I also had way too much fun with my education colleagues back stage during our three performances last week:
After every show, we met with students, who were most amused to see us all in costume. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to feeling like a rock star.

It was great fun--exhausting--but great fun. Seeing colleagues from across campus in a whole new light and working at a campus that has this kind of tradition is a magical thing. As far as we know, we are the only campus in the country that has this kind of production, and we're very proud of this labor of love for our students...and we are also very glad we have four years to recover before we do this again.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Yesterday officially kicked off the competitive dance season:
 We had our Company Showcase, which is somewhere between dress rehearsal and recital. It's the first time the girls take the stage. Issa was more than a bit nervous, but she did so well.

She began her day with production:
 Then we had tap, which I totally forgot to photograph, before she moved straight on to jazz:
 My girl, though, she is a lyrical dancer:
 I cried when I watched her team perform their dance, and then I cried again during her solo:
Did she miss some steps yesterday? Yep. Was she thrilled with her performance? Nope. But...I was. Last year, I spent the entire season trying to get her out of her head. She loved dancing, but she had to fake a smile on stage. Yesterday, though, she wasn't faking. She loved performing. Her smile was genuine and not glued to her face. It made all the difference in the world. And seeing her light up on stage...that's everything.