Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Another Weekend


Saturday morning looked like this:
 

 
 
Saturday evening looked like this: 
 
  
As it turns out we are people who attend dance competitions.
 
Harper started taking ballet class in first grade. This was at the suggestion of Matt's mom but we were more than happy to let her do it. Harper loves music and dance, and, though she is not particularly flexible, seemed to have an aptitude for learning her dance moves. She enjoyed class and really enjoyed getting up on stage and performing in her first recitals.
 
After two years of regular class she was invited to audition for the competition team at her studio. At first she wasn't interested. Then she found out several of her friends were going to audition and she decided to give it a try. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she was actually invited to join.
 
I had all kinds of reservations about taking that step. It is a lot of time/energy/expense. The director of our studio reassured me that in reality it was nothing like that TV show... and, for the most part, it isn't.
 
I never imagined I would be a person applying lipstick or false eyelashes to my nine-year-old's face. The truth is that I still have mixed feelings about that part of things.
 
But I also never imagined I could offer my daughter a situation where she'd take nearly 11 hours of dance class in one weekend from well-known choreographers. I never imagined how proud I'd feel when she didn't give up, even when it was unbelievably difficult for a dancer of her (low) level of experience. I never imagined how my heart would swell watching her get up on a competition stage, in front of bright lights, judges, an audience, and perform like she'd been waiting her whole life to do it. It looked terrifying to me. I asked one of the other mothers if children (because they ARE children) ever get up on those stages and just freeze.
 
"If she can do this," I thought to myself, "what on earth would she ever be afraid to do?"
 
We've been doing this for less than a year, but I can already see how Harper is growing from the experience. She's learning about time management, commitment, sacrifice. She's experiencing what it is like to work with a group, over a long period of time, for a common purpose.
 
 
 
Sure the costumes can be crazy and the false eyelashes are downright ridiculous, but if I had to choose one word to sum up what this experience has been like for Harper so far it would be: empowering.
 

 

 
And I don't regret it one bit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sleeping Over

We had a major milestone in our house last weekend - Harper's first away from home sleepover. 

Nine years old isn't really all that young to go to a sleepover, and we've had other children sleep at our house a handful of times. I'm sure any parent feels some anxiety when a child spends the night away from home. For us, the anxiety is ratcheted up a bit because it means handing responsibility for Harper's food allergies over to someone else. 

We've had lots of practice trusting other adults with Harper's safety, but mostly in the public school setting where we actually have a legal document that details steps to be taken and procedures to follow. We have also had babysitters responsible for Harper, but in our nut free home.

It's rare that Harper even goes to play for a couple of hours at another family's house without her father or I with her. So how did we end up sending her away overnight?

This fall Harper started dancing with the competitive group at her studio. We leave tomorrow, heading to Pittsburgh, for the first competition of their season. The parents of another competitor wanted to have all the girls over to spend the night together and bond a bit before our trip. 

If it hadn't been for this specific situation, I think we would have continued to pass on sleepovers for another couple of years. I really didn't want to say no to her attending and have her be the only girl to miss out on the fun. I replied to the invitation and inquired whether the mom was willing to take on the responsibility of managing Harper's allergy for the night.

As it turns out, another child in that family is very close friends with someone who has severe food allergies. The mother already knew how to use an EpiPen and was totally willing to work with me in terms of handling the food that would be available at the party. She was even willing to let me spend the night as well! (I passed.) It helped that they only live a few minutes from us and the hospital was in between our houses.

Of course Harper had no hesitation about being with her friends!

Here are a few photos of the evening that I borrowed from Facebook - I wasn't sure how the other parents would feel about pictures on the blog, so I covered most of the faces:

They made posters to put on their hotel room doors.


No drama here...


All's well that ends well - Harper had a great time at the party and I even managed to get a little bit of sleep. I know that she is getting to an age where she won't always want her parents with her at every event. She's learning how to be more responsible for her allergy and we are learning to hand over a little more trust and responsibility. 

One step at a time!

I am so grateful for this parent - and for all the caring, supportive adults and children we've encountered - who was willing to go the extra mile to make this routine childhood experience possible for Harper. It means more than she probably realizes.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

Do you recognize these itty-bitty children? 


That picture is from April 2008, just a few days after Michael came home from his month in the NICU. Harper was playing, "This Little Piggy," with his teeny toes. You can see that he had an apnea monitor. I think we had that for a month or two after we came home - funny that I don't quite remember the details any more. What I do remember is how awful and piercing that alarm was, and that Michael frequently moved enough during the night to disconnect himself from the leads and set it off despite not having an actual problem.

When I look at Michael now, it is hard to reconcile my nearly-six-year-old boy with the preemie he once was. Look how wee he was in the picture and he was probably five or six weeks old already! He is a beautiful reminder of all we have to be grateful for and why we work each year to raise money for March of Dimes.

Yes, I will again be asking people to please consider donating to our March for Babies team - the link to do so is in the right sidebar. Or you can click here. I am incredibly thankful for all the support we've had in years past, enabling us to raise some pretty impressive family team totals. I would love to see our total this year surpass last year's number. Please remember that every little bit helps. Feel free to share the link and thank you for considering making a donation!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Well That Was Interesting

The very same day I wrote a post about missing our routine and some regularity, I came home from taking the kids to dance feeling horrible.

My temp was 103.6.

After two days of crazy fever Matt hauled me to the doctor and we realized I had strep throat! For the first time in my life!

I am glad not to have a reason to take antibiotics too frequently, but wow, are they amazing things. Monday night/most of Tuesday I really thought I might die (only a slight exaggeration) and by Thursday night I felt almost back to normal again.

I spent much of today catching up on things I completely failed to attend to last week. Now that my health has been restored I feel good about two things:

     1) My family does, in fact, appreciate many of the little daily things I do for them.

     2) They could get along with out me if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. Though it would probably take some adjusting.

So I'm working on getting back on track and I owe a big apology to anyone who has been waiting for me to reply about something - I'm on it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Routine Required

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this winter has been brutal, no?

We are firmly planted in the Midwest, but not far enough north to expect a bunch of snow and sub-zero days as a general rule of winter. This winter, however, my children have already have five snow/cold days off school. There have been many school years when we had zero such days, or maybe one. We are officially at the point that we will have to make up days if any more school days are cancelled.

I have to be honest, not working this year, it hasn't been that big of a deal to have those extra days off. Our winter break was extended by two days and we all enjoyed some extra laying around in our pajamas. I'll admit that I don't even cringe much at the thought of needing to add an extra day or two to the end of the school year, especially since the children's last day of school is supposed to be May 22. (Though I'm not sure anything academically significant will happen in those extra days!)

So in theory I don't really mind the days off. However, between the winter break, snow days, a blessedly small handful of sick days, I can really feel that we are out of our routine. Now that they are a tiny bit older, the children definitely roll with the punches better than they did when they were infants or toddlers. But, man, this has been a rough stretch. I feel it, too. There's plenty to be done around her but the unpredictable nature of our schedule lately kind of makes me want to take a nap and not much else - which is partly responsible for the lack of posting here. As for Harper and Michael - their are growing irritable and weepy, respectively. We all do better when things go the way we expect!

We are in the thick of another frigid stretch, tonight/tomorrow being the worst, and I'll be surprised if the children have a full day of school tomorrow. But maybe, just maybe, we can get back to our regularly scheduled schedule after that.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

Once again, in lieu of making a list of resolutions for 2014, I am choosing a word which I hope will steer my decision-making this new year.

My word for 2014 is nourish.

What's yours?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Hap-Happiest Season of All

For the next month or so (minus the time when we are in Wisconsin) this will be my view from my little writing desk. It makes my heart happy...


I must admit I was so pleased last night when one of Harper's friends exclaimed, "You have so many pretty ornaments on your tree!"

Now my children probably won't have many happy golden memories about decorating our tree because it is an area where my inner control-freak comes out in a big way. I love doing it and I am very particular about how the ornaments are arranged. We also have quite a few breakable ornaments. So Harper and Michael do get to help, but only a little and only with certain ornaments. It is just the way it is. They will have plenty of other happy holiday memories...

We have all of the ornaments that I received throughout my childhood and now Harper's and Michael's, plus the ornaments Matt and I have received since being married. Some of my favorites are ornaments from students and friends. For many of the children's ornaments I have fond memories of who gifted them or of what I was thinking when I chose them myself. 

Over the years a couple of ornaments have fallen or been dropped, and I think of those, too, as I unpack and carefully place the ones we have. 

Pardon the cheese, but unpacking the ornaments feels like unpacking boxes full of our blessings. Little reminders of happy times, of people we love who love us. All the more special because in a few weeks they will be packed away again.

*****
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