Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Winner Winner...

...chicken dinner!

Somewhere down the road I owe this space three decent blog posts to make up for these last three sad ones for the end of NaBloPoMo. I have been really scrambling the last three days to make up for all the time I didn't spend writing while we were in Florida. I had to write about 10,000 words today to meet the 50,000 word goal by the time National Novel Writing Month ended and I did it! It was insane and I spent every free moment typing away.

The turn my story took at the end means that it isn't actually finished. The whole thing is incredibly flawed but it is there. Maybe I will pick it up again and finish the story or maybe not, but it always feels good to set a goal and reach it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Home Stretch, Part II

I appear to have brought a cold home from vacation. This is not necessarily the type of souvenir I like to have to remember my travels by. I am feeling both cranky and whiny tonight, which is not a great combination for accomplishing anything.

The good news is, it is the time of year for listening to Christmas music - an effective mood-booster. The Piano Guys, A Family Christmas, is my album of choice at the moment, but there are so many good ones to choose from. What are your favorites?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Home Stretch

I'm a little under-motivated for blog posting today. I think nine days away is finally catching up with me and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the Christmas prep that now needs to be done! Only two more days in National Blog Posting Month and in National Novel Writing Month - I could use a little boost to get both done, but what I really want is to curl up and go to sleep.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Draft Day #4 'Tis Better to Give Than Receive

Ah, the final draft day post. And this brings me to the end of the random drafts I had sitting in Blogger. I think I saved the best for last!

When Harper was in kindergarten we decided to throw a big birthday party for her and invite the whole kindergarten class. It just so happens that good family friends of ours have a son whose birthday is about two weeks before Harper's and they were in the same kindergarten class. We decided to combine forces and throw a big party at the local rec center. We spent about an hour with snacks and games in a large multi-purpose room and then went swimming.

The only hang-up I had about having such a large party was that Harper really did not need 30 birthday gifts. We talked with the kids and they agreed to forego gifts in order to have a big party with all their friends. Instead of gifts for the birthday boy and girl we collected items for Toys for Tots.

What I found in my drafts were pictures of the day the children dropped the toys off at the collection barrel in our library:



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Road Weary

Earlier today I read a friend's Facebook post - she was in the car with a crying baby on the way home from visiting out of town family. We drove many a mile with a screaming child in an infant seat, so I really empathized with her. A little later she posted a picture of the child, then fast asleep. So all's well that ends well. I had a fleeting moment of thankfulness that we were past that stage of life.

We should have moved beyond screaming tantrums in the car, but Michael, our child of routine, has spent the last two days behaving as if he fell right from the pages of The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation. After horrendous traffic nearly the entire stretch between Orlando and Atlanta, we've finally stopped for the evening near Knoxville, Tennessee. Michael is already crashed in the hotel bed, but he spent the last hour of the drive maniacally tormenting everyone in the car. He was also up, laughing hysterically, in the middle of the night last night and refused to be still and try to fall back asleep. He's thrown a fit today about choosing a bed, car snacks, dinner, where his headphones were, and how Harper's looked at him. It's a wonder we didn't toss him out of the car on I-75.

It probably has to do with his being tired, having had more snacks and less nutritionally sound meals than his body is used to, and the disappointment of our vacation coming to an end. He gets into these moods and rants that are almost impossible to snap him out of. He becomes completely unreasonable and the rest of us just have to hang on and try to survive Hurricane Michael. I sincerely hope this is something he grows out of as he gets older, although at this point I'm just hoping tomorrow is a little easier than today. We've got a good four hours of road time left...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Flashback Friday #4

I thought it would be fun, for the last Flashback Friday of this blog posting month, to flashback to the last time we were at Disney with both kids. Harper was about to turn 7 and Michael was about 3-and-a-half. Michael was probably a little on the young side for what I would consider an ideal Disney experience, especially since we had a stroller with us. The upside of the stroller was that we had all that extra space for storing whatever stuff we were schlepping around the parks.

One of my favorite things about this particular trip was that Michael told every single character we met that we were staying in a condo. It was adorable. I looked back in the blog to see if I'd written much about our trip or posted pictures and I had hardly posted anything! Oops. I wish I'd kept better track of that trip in this space. Oh well.

Michael was still perfecting the art of the funny face.
Michael was a little uncertain about the characters. Also? He called them mascots. 

By the end of the trip he'd warmed up a bit, especially toward the princesses, no joke. 
Here's an odd side note... seeing these pictures really makes me miss dressing little kids. They looked so cute and put together all the time. I'd like a four year old again, just for the dressing!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday - The Fourth

At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, what an abundance of blessings this last week has made clear! It's been a highlight of so many of the best parts of my life: the weekend with friends I've held dear for over twenty years, time with my family in the "Happiest Place on Earth," crossing paths with friends from different parts of our lives and sharing vacation moments in a way I wouldn't have imagined possible, and lots of loving texts from the pieces of family we aren't sharing this holiday with - I'm even grateful for the technology allowing me to see my adorable nephew in his Thanksgiving finest this morning.

I know, in a logical way, all of the things I have to be grateful for on a daily basis - food, education, electricity, love, all of it and so much more. But there is a difference between understanding what you should be grateful for and deeply feeling gratitude. I think it sometimes makes me seem silly, but there are moments when I pause and just think, "I am so happy right now." Occasionally I even say it out loud, which usually garners me odd glances from my companions. Seriously though, I have had many of those moments this week, this month, even, and I'm even grateful for the ability to stop in a beautiful moment and allow it to wash over me.

We ate some darn good carved turkey sandwiches in a castle for lunch today - I hope, wherever you are and whoever you're with, your meal and company are equally magnificent!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pro-Tip

Sunday morning I sat in an aisle seat, waiting for my flight to travel from Nevada to Florida. There was a gentleman who was one of the last on the plane to take his seat and reluctantly sat in the middle seat next to me. As he sat down he grumbled something about hoping it wasn't row 13, which, clearly, it was.

After the flight attendant confirmed that it was the 13th row, I said, "Don't worry about it, I'm pretty sure all the rows are going to have the same luck."

The flight attendant cracked up - it was quite gratifying.

Seriously though, if you've ever heard of an airplane having a problem with only the 13th row crashing, let me know. Otherwise I think we can sit in row 13 with confidence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dispatch from The Happiest Place on Earth

A brief entry from a busy day. Here is a pro/con comparison for this day of Thanksgiving Vacation:
  • Con - children cannot seem to leave bickering habits at home and drive parents to the brink of insanity while they are supposed to be having the time of their lives.
  • Pro - things fall into place to meet up with great friends from home and run around after dark sharing a bunch of adventures.
We are having a great time, but I wish there was a suspension of sibling nonsense that magically settled over holidays, vacations, etc. If anyone has some Pixie Dust that makes such a thing possible, please share.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tables Turned

There have been two instances recently when I've had the experience of being on the other side of food allergies, as in, I have encountered situations where someone has a food allergy and that someone was not my child.

This year Michael has a boy in his class who is allergic to nuts like Harper is. Early on in the school year we received a letter requesting students to sign-up to pack nut-free one day a week to sit at the nut free table with this student. It is exactly the same system we used for Harper all through elementary school and, year after year, I was touched by the efforts made by so many school families to ensure she had friends to eat with. In fact, I think the letter I received is the exact same one that I used to send. Of course Michael is eating with his friend at the nut-free table once a week.

On Friday when I was flying out to Las Vegas, I actually had a stash of Snickers bars that were pilfered from the Halloween haul. We do not keep or eat nuts in the house. But it was Harper's idea that I put all the Snickers in a bag, freeze them, and have them for my trip. Years ago I probably would not have done that, but both the kids are old enough now that I wasn't worried about someone getting in to them - they both understand the potential for danger. I was unlikely to eat all the Snickers bars on the plane ride, but I was looking forward to nibbling them. And I failed to pack anything else to eat - not really thinking through that the flight was 4.5 hours long.

As we were getting ready to depart the crew made an announcement that there was someone on board with a nut allergy, not nuts or nut products would be served, and would we please refrain from opening and consuming any food we'd brought with us that might contain nuts. The friend I was traveling with hadn't eaten and, of course, had packed a peanut butter sandwich. Obviously we didn't eat our peanut products and, even though I had to delay gratification for a bit with the Snickers, it wasn't the end of the world.

In gratitude for all the people who have gone out of their way to help us keep Harper safe over the years, I'm more than happy to return the favor.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Draft Day #3 Summer Reading

I loaded the following photos on June 17, 2009. Harper would have been about four and a half years old. I believe it was the first summer we fully participated in our local library's summer reading program.




Someone was pretty proud of her yard sign!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vegas, Baby!

Before yesterday I hadn't been on a plane since I was pregnant with Michael. Let that sink in for a moment please... Yes, it had been about nine years. I've not been a huge fan of flying since I was a child, but this trip I was pretty nervous, just because it had been so long.

It did a lot to calm my nerves when, right before he got on the bus yesterday morning, Michael looked at me and said, "Are you sure nothing with go wrong with the plane?" Of course I chirpily replied that all would be well, but my stomach was rolling all day.

All's well that ends well and we arrived in Las Vegas largely without incident. There were a few moments of turbulence - it was a tiny bit nerve-wracking when the pilot called the flight attendants back to their seats - but even that wasn't so bad.

I was fortunate to fly with another of my roommates so I wasn't by myself on the plane. And we ended up sitting in a row with a person who is a senior at the college we attended, hopefully our little Vegas excursion will provide some squad goals for her and her college friends.

And now we're here and I'm looking forward to whatever this day will bring, but I'm not very likely to write about it...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Flashback Friday #3

When I left Wisconsin to go to college in Ohio I was blessed with an incredible group of women who became my friends and roommates. I was fortunate to have many friends at my school and to still be in contact with a number of them today. Years ago I let Matt know that I was definitely going to want to celebrate my 40th birthday. He also knew that, more than just about anything, I would want to do it with the five women who were my housemates our junior and senior year of college. I wasn't counting on it, however, because many of us have children (lots younger than my own) and we're pretty thoroughly scattered throughout the country. A couple in Ohio (but in different cities), a couple in St. Louis, one in Seattle, and one in San Diego. We had a full reunion (all of us present) in Chicago about nine years ago. Since then we've been together twice more, for one or another's weddings, but the bride doesn't typically get a ton of time to hang out with her college roommates when she's getting married.

Being the thoughtful and awesome husband that he is, Matt worked behind the scenes to put together a big surprise for this November. He arranged for all six of us to spend the weekend together in Las Vegas. And that weekend is happening now! We haven't all be in the same place in almost three years and now we get a whole weekend. I am out of my mind with excitement. 

Here's a look back at some of our greatest hits:

At our house Christmas party, December 1998. Please note the awesome paintings on the wall behind us - our very own artwork from the year before. Each of us still has one of the other girls' paintings in our possession today.


Here we are on the steps of the capitol building in Denver, Colorado. We took a road trip to Breckenridge to celebrate graduation back in May of 1999. We met up in St. Louis and drove a rented minivan out west. It was spectacular..


Who can forget Y2K? Here we are at my friend's parents' house in St. Louis, all dolled up to go downtown and ring in 2000.

I cannot wait to live it up with these ladies this weekend, but I can't promise any pictures. You know what they say about Vegas...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thankful Thursday - The Third

Dear Harper,

This month I've been using Thursdays to post about things I'm thankful for. Today my thankful day just happens to coincide with your 12th birthday. So here, in no particular order, are a few things about you that I'm thankful for:

  • I'm thankful you came along 12 years ago and made me a mother.
  • I'm thankful, despite the fact that it drives me crazy much of the time, for your sense of independence. You are not afraid to do you own thing and that will serve you well as you get older.
  • I'm thankful that you are able to use the ups and downs you experience in your friendships to cultivate a kind and compassionate heart.
  • I'm thankful that, despite the fact that I am certain I drive you crazy much of the time, you talk to me and tell me about what is going on with dance, and school, and your friends.
  • I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to watch you discover your talents and interests - this year it has been especially fun to witness how you love your science class and your blossoming interest in the violin.
  • I'm thankful you love books and that we get to talk about the great books we read. 
  • I'm thankful we get to share a love of music and theater. (And by the way, I predict you'll love Hamilton, eventually!)
  • I'm thankful for all these years of watching you express your passion for dance.
  • I'm thankful that you work hard at school, even on the nights when we need to tell you to just go to bed already, and that your efforts are paying off.
  • I'm thankful that you're not too old or too cool to hug your mom and dad goodnight before you go to bed.
  • I'm thankful for the hope that you and I will continue to learn how to grow together and have a good relationship, despite the rocky terrain we'll encounter in the years to come. 
I love you, Harper, and I hope you've had a great birthday!

Love,
Mom

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fortune Teller

About a week ago I had a lunch meeting with some other library media people. We went out for Chinese and the following message was in my fortune cookie:

Use your abilities at this time to
stay focused on your goal.
You will succeed.

Message received.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This is 40

I know not everyone is a fan of having their birthday on Facebook. And I'm not always great about wishing people happy birthday on Facebook. But today I enjoyed reading greetings from relatives and friends old and new.

This morning a good friend of mine showed up before school started with breakfast for me.

Several students went out of their way to stop by in the library and wish me a happy birthday.

I came home to balloons (40 of them!) and a 6-pack of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale from other family friends. (The ale was delicious, by the way.)

We dropped Harper off at dance and I got to go to dinner with Michael and Matt.

I took a tap class.

Finally I spent some time with my National Novel Writing Month novel and I'm actually on track to hit the 50,000 world goal for the month - I surpassed 25,000 words today. I'm really flying by the seat of my pants, but I'm doing it.

Not a bad start to the next decade, if I do say so myself.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Take a Deep Breath

Dear Michael,

Tomorrow the third graders in your school, including you, will take your first "high stakes" standardized test. It is part of a requirement in our state. Third graders will take the test this fall and have another opportunity to take it in the spring because students must pass before they advance to the fourth grade. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.

Even though Dad, myself, and your teacher think you'll do just fine on the test you are very, very worried about it. You've been talking about this test for a couple of weeks and tonight you were anxious to the point of crying about it.

I wish there was something we could say or do that would help you relax, but I know there probably isn't.

I think these tests put schools in a difficult position, there's a lot of pressure for schools to perform well and they need students to take the test seriously. The result is that it gets communicated to the students as being a very big deal. Dad and I may have added to the pressure without meaning to. We've reminded you to take your time (you tend to rush) and to read directions carefully (again, you tend to rush), and then to do your best.

It's a little early in the game to know what kind of test-taker you'll be as you get older, but we already have some evidence that these kinds of standardized tests may not be the best way for you, personally, to show what you know. These sorts of things come more easily to some students than others.

But here's what Daddy and I (and I bet your wonderful teacher, too) really want you to know:

We love you. We love you for who you are and what you are capable of. You are more than the grades on your report card. You are so much more than the score of one test. You are your enthusiasm for baseball. You are your kindness to the children around you. You are the love you have for your family. You are all of this and so, so much more. No matter what happens on that test, we love you and we're proud of you. There's no number in the world that can change that.

Love,
Mom

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Draft Day #2: Baby Michael

This "draft" was sitting my folder from April 9, 2009, which means Michael just over a year old in these photos. There was not title on the draft so I didn't know what to expect when I pulled it up. These images surprised me and then I had myself a good long cry about the fleeting nature of childhood. Ahem.





I mean, I know this isn't the same for most of you as it is for me, but doesn't your heart just melt at that sweet little boy? I would like to go back in time and snuggle him when he was that size just for a few minutes, please? Excuse me while I go miss that baby a bit.

Happy Sunday, pass the tissues.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Harper, Meet Dar

Tonight, barring something completely unforeseen in the next two hours, I'm heading to Columbus, Ohio, to take Harper to her first Dar Williams concert. I'm trying to temper my expectations because I know the likelihood of Harper being as excited as I am are slim. I know that this evening is unlikely to be momentous for her, but I've been waiting years to see Dar Williams live with Harper. The last time she played anywhere near us it was on a weeknight and a testing week so keeping Harper out late seemed ill-advised.

This is a special show we're going to see. It's part of a tour during to mark the 20th anniversary of Dar's Mortal City album release. That album was released while I was in college and a song from it, "Iowa," was the first Dar Williams song I ever heard. My college roommate got the CD for her birthday, or maybe Christmas, and we listened to that song on repeat for weeks. (We were big on songs on repeat.)

Here's a video Dar's team created of fans holding up the lyrics to, "Iowa," which I'm very much looking forward to hearing tonight:




Friday, November 11, 2016

Flashback Friday #2

I'm feeling nostalgic today - adulting has been difficult this week. So here's a picture of me in third grade, with a pictures of Harper and Michael, also in third grade, for comparison: 



My third grade teacher was Mrs. Boehm and she was in one of her first years of teaching. I went to a very small grade school so that year second and third grades were in one classroom with one teacher. There were twenty of us in that class. Sadly, I don't remember a ton of specifics from that year of school, although I know I loved my teacher. We used to go out for a fish fry on Friday nights and often ran into her at a particular restaurant - which was always a bit of a thrill. 

Several years ago I ran into her at some kind of fundraiser or event. It was funny to reminisce as an adult and someone who has also been a classroom teacher. The year I had her I guess the 2nd and 3rd graders did not go to "specials" classes together. So when we went to gym or music, Mrs. Boehm still had the 2nd grade students. When they went, she was left with us 3rd graders. Teachers also used to have to take turns supervising the lunch room and maybe recess, too. It sounds like she didn't have any planning or grading time! Looking back, I bet that job was a bit of a nightmare. She was professional enough that we had no idea. 

What I do remember about third grade was that two new students, girls, joined our class that year. We had a little trouble getting along all the time. At one point we set up some sort of recess schedule to determine who would play with each other on which days - in an attempt to end our arguing about it. Ah, grade school drama!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thankful Thursday - The Second

Today's thankful thoughts, in no particular order

1. I'm thankful for a school community where parents are invested in their children's education and want to support the work of the teachers and administrators.

2. I'm thankful that Matt is home after being away for work since Sunday. It was the fourth time in five weeks that he had to travel for work - I'm thrilled that we are through that stretch. Life is so much better when we can play the kids man-to-man.

3. I'm thankful for the birthday card I received from my wonderful goddaughter today. I can't believe she's a senior in high school and I'm so excited to see what the future holds for her.

4. I'm thankful for the tender hearts of good friends near and far and the outpouring of love and support I've seen shown this week. We really do belong to each other.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Some Days

Motherhood is getting up early,
combing the hair,
packing the lunch,
signing the form,
writing the check,
dropping off and picking up and dropping off again,
washing the grapes,
cleaning up dog puke,
hands in soapy dishwater,
scrubbing the scum from around the sink,
returning the library books,
checking the homework,
finding the reassuring words,
and going to bed...
knowing you are going to get up and to it all again.
When you feel like it, but especially when you do not.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Democracy!

I don't tend to speak publicly about my political affiliations. There are lots of reasons for that. Some of it is related to Matt's job. Some of it is related to my views vs. the general views of some of the communities I'm a part of. For better or worse, I'm not interested in inviting hostility into my workplace or relationships with my neighbors because of differing political views. I have been quite anxious leading up to this election, more than any past I can recall. But today I woke up feeling excited because I. Love. Democracy.


I know there are lots of things wrong in our political system, but I refuse to be cynical about this process we have a right to participate in. I do my best to pay attention to the issues and I am proud to vote in even our small, local elections. I try to impress upon our children the importance of exercising the right to vote. 

This year, the nature of the election has necessitated lots of extra discussion about respect in our house. And, I will admit, there have been times when I have found it a challenge to speak respectfully about all the candidates. Who knows what my children will hear when they go back to school tomorrow. Over and over again I have repeated that, in our house, we will speak with respect about our president and we will treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they voted for. 

Harper has commented a couple of times that she doesn't, "like," this candidate or that candidate. This year I have challenged her on that - why does she think she does or does not like someone? She might not care for a public persona, but does she know what policies the candidates stand for? Has she thought about how the result of her hypothetical vote would impact her daily life? She sort of blows me off when I try to talk to her seriously about this election, as almost-twelve-year-olds are wont to do, but I hope that some of my message is sinking in. 

Here's the truth - I would never vote for someone based solely on his/her gender or race. But I'm so incredibly moved that there is a woman as a major party candidate, when 100 years ago women didn't even have the right to vote. The fact that people are showing up at the graves of suffragettes to celebrate the right to vote makes me heart humanity. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Typing With My Eyes Closed

It's not falling asleep at the wheel, thankfully, but I am about ready to fall asleep on my keyboard. I actually did close my eyes once or twice while trying to reach my word count goal for NaNoWriMo. We had a party on Saturday and I didn't have much writing time so I had to pull double-duty yesterday and I did. I'm still on track to finish my 50,000 words by the end of the month.

So NaNoWriMo has been a challenging goal and I keep surprising myself with my ability to keep putting words into a document. But here are some things that are suffering so I can spend more time typing:

1. My Fitbit step count. I need to learn to type and walk at the same time.

2. Reading. Apparently I have a word quota for the day and if I'm creating them, I feel less of a need to consume them. No, scratch that, it isn't that I don't want to read, it's that I can't seem to stay awake.

3. Sending thank you notes and birthday cards. I'm never on time with that sort of thing any longer, but this month will be worse than usual.

There you have it - I'm hanging in there. And now I do need to get some sleep because I have a feeling tomorrow will be a pretty interesting day.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Draft Day #1: Story Time

I mentioned that I had some predetermined blog themes in mind to help keep me on track this month. I had four drafts sitting in my blogger account so I thought doing a "Draft Day" on Sundays this month might be a fun way to revisit items I thought I might post about in the past.

This first one was sitting with a title, "Story Time," from June of 2008. Which makes Harper about 3 1/2 years old in these photos:





She still sleeps in that bed and has the rest of that furniture. The color of her walls is different now, as are the sheets, and I don't think any of those particular animals are in her bedroom. Her walls are covered with posters these days, quotes from the musical Wicked, a Taylor Swift calendar. The room is almost always a mess. It's sort of a nice reminder to see this pictures and know that bare bones of the room haven't changed all that much. I think the important things about that little girl haven't either.

I can tell she's reading to her animals from a big book of "Golden" stories which she received for her baptism from a college friend of Matt's and his then girlfriend, now wife. I think the book went on to live in Michael's room for a while and is probably packed away. If I can remember who gave it to us, I'm unlikely to have gotten rid of it. The books are very different now, of course, but still read with the same intensity. These days she shares them with book club friends instead of stuffed animals. Although, if given the chance, she'll definitely invite a little one onto her lap for a story.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

I Wish...

Michael just had a tantalizing misunderstanding about our extra hour of sleep -

He said, "Getting that extra hour of sleep is really going to make it easier to get up for school this week."

He thought we'd get an extra hour every night! We were very sorry to break it to him that the extra hour was a one-time deal.

Tonight, in particular, I'm thankful that my children are of the age where they do not need to wake me up immediately upon waking the morning. I don't think I'll have any trouble using that extra hour!

Friday, November 04, 2016

Flashback Friday #1


Shannon and I, June 1993

At the risk of being too gimmicky - I figured the only way I was going to get through daily blog posting was to have some days with a predetermined theme. So Fridays are going to be for old photos. The one above is my younger sister and I, from 23 years ago. The picture was not dated in any way in my album, but I was able to draw some conclusions from the photos around it:

1) I had just finished up my sophomore year in high school, and that makes me 16 in this photo.

2) My sister would have just finished 7th grade and would be about to turn 14.

3) I'm pretty sure my brother, who would have been almost 8 at the time, took the photo. He did a great job, considering this was back in the day when you just took a picture and hoped for the best, unable to see how you did until weeks later when you'd sent the film in for processing.

There was a texture to that shirt that I can close my eyes and remember exactly, it was one of my favorites. I remember wearing that necklace, too, which I'm pretty sure was just a bead on a piece of leather.

Two of my favorite things you can sort of see in the photo are the giant boombox that was on top of my bookshelf (which had been a 14th birthday present) and the white phone cord dangling down from my dresser on the right. So old fashioned!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Thankful Thursday - The First

1. The Cubs! Michael is so sad because apparently he's a Cleveland Indians fan, but the first thing out of my mouth when I woke up this morning was, "Who won the game?" I'm so happy it's the Cubs. I think my dad is probably pretty happy, too.

2. Turns out Vance Joy is pretty terrific background music for writing. I'm grateful for that discovery this evening.

3. I'm thankful for the way the people in this house can surprise me by cooling rolling with an unexpected change of plans. Let's just say dinner didn't go exactly the way we hoped, and no one cried (about dinner).

4. I'm thankful for friends who inspire me in so many different ways.

5. I'm thankful for little signs that I will, eventually, have work friends in my new building.
   
       5a. I'm thankful for the friends from the last two years who still keep in touch.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tapping

It is possible that much of what I will post about during this month of blogging will be the experience of my first National Novel Writing Month. Two days in a row, I have met the word count goal for the day. If I'm being truly honest with myself, that's more writing that I thought I might manage all month.

Yesterday I was a little bit pleased with how my novel started out. Today, for various reasons, it felt a lot more forced and less polished, although I think it was coming around a bit towards the end.

I think part of the point of doing something like NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to just get something down on the paper. The only way to meet the goal is to write. It's not quite as bad as adding "The End" to push a 98 word book report to the required 100 words, but I think it is going to feel that way sometimes.

Years ago I took a graduate class about teaching writing - it's still one of my favorite classes I've ever taken - and the professor insisted that we couldn't teach writing unless we practiced writing ourselves. Something we read in that class (or discussed, or heard - I can't remember the exact detail) was that it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. 40:1! I think of that all the time when I'm writing, because so much of what comes out at first is simply not great. But as I'm slogging through the bits that aren't great I occasionally find one or two thoughts or sentences that I love. So that first pass, that initial draft, I guess that's the sap. Editing and revising gets you from sap to syrup, I suppose.

This month I'm giving myself permission for almost all of the writing to be sap - as long as it keeps coming. We'll see if there's anything to make syrup from at the end.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Intention

Well Happy November, all!

November is my favorite month of the year. Fall leaves, crisp evenings, birthdays for Harper and I (and many other wonderful people), Thanksgiving, and, late in the month, Advent beginning the countdown to Christmas.

This November is going to bring a lot of excitement, including, but not limited to, my 40th (?!) birthday.

So I'm going to try to do one thing I haven't done in three years and one thing I've never done at all.

I will participate in National Blog Posting Month (which I've not successfully done since 2013).

I will participate in National Novel Writing Month (which I've never done).

Maybe writing begets writing? Is that a thing?

Here is today's blog post and I've already surpassed my 1,667 words for the day.

We shall declare Day One a success and see where it goes from here. There is a series of events coming up later this month that seems almost guaranteed to derail progress on both fronts, but it never hurts to try.

Here's to November!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Dance Bug is Contagious

This year marks Harper's 4th year of competition dance. She was in third grade when she began, which means Michael was in kindergarten. One day a week my mother-in-law took Harper to dance, which meant that Michael and I took her the other day. Instead of trying to entertain Michael in the dance studio lobby for an hour and a half, I decided to put Michael in the tap class that went on during the middle half-hour. He ended up loving it and has taken tap every year since then. Last year he also joined a "pirate" dance class that was just for boys. 

At the end of last season Michael was asked to try out for the competition team for this year. At first he didn't want anything to do with it - his immediate answer was no. I wasn't interested in forcing Michael to sign up for something that would take up a lot of his time and limit his ability to do other activities; however, I knew his not wanting to do it didn't have anything to do with dance. It had everything to do with not wanting his friends to make fun of him. We encouraged him to take the audition classes and promised we wouldn't make him do it if he ultimately didn't want to.

Michael did take those audition classes, one jazz and one ballet, and he loved them. We didn't end up doing any convincing at all - he was sold. He wanted to dance.

Flash forward to this year... Michael is dancing with the competition group. He's dancing a little over four hours a week. It took him a couple of weeks to get used to doing a quick change into dance tights two days a week after school, but he's got the hang of it now. He loves it, he's excited about it, and he's proud of what he's learning. Every class he working on musicality, strength, balance, and flexibility. I hope he's learning to respect his body, and, perhaps more importantly, the bodies of the dancers around him. 

It remains to be seen whether Michael will enjoy the actual competitions this spring. I have no idea whether he'll want to do it again next year. I know he still doesn't want most of his friends to know about it. But here he is, waiting for his ride to dance a couple of weeks ago:


If he's happy, we're happy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rethinking

I quietly, though publicly, embarrassed myself on Twitter today.

I saw a question, posed by an author I follow, asking for suggestions for a picture book that might make a case for moving away from Columbus Day toward Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Right away I responded with a book I’d felt proud to use in my classroom years ago, one that provided an alternative perspective on Columbus’s arrival, one that I felt would open student’s minds to the notion that there are many angles from which to view historic events. Almost immediately another Twitter-user, one who had been tagged in the original tweet, responded with an emphatic, “no, not [the book I’d recommended].”

I was taken aback, at first, and embarrassed. I thought about just deleting my tweet, but stopped, because there may be other librarians/educators out there who had the same thought. So I summoned the courage to apologize and ask, “Why not?”

The person who had tweeted not to use the book I suggested responded, thoughtfully, and as thoroughly as Twitter allows, and explained why the book I mentioned wasn’t a good representation of Native society. She also pointed me toward a critical essay of the book.

I’m going to be honest and say that I never would have realized how problematic that book is. And it has left me uncomfortable and wondering how many more books have issues with their cultural representations that I’m not equipped to recognize.

I looked back to the review sources I typically use when I’m evaluating books to purchase for the middle school library where I work. None of the reviews for this particular book indicate it is as problematic as it is. So, where do I turn? I rarely have the opportunity to read a book before I purchase it, and I certainly haven’t read everything I’ve ever purchased for the library. I have to rely on reviews. If the reviews aren’t going inform me about cultural misrepresentations and I’m not going to pick up on all of them myself I guess I’m bound to make mistakes?

By and large, I have lived a privileged, sheltered life. Being aware of that doesn’t necessarily make it right and it doesn’t work as an excuse for everything I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility of doing better for my children and my students. I’m not sure how to fix it.

I do know that I learned something in my embarrassment today. I’ve added another layer to lens through which I read and evaluate books. I hope I’ve taken a small step toward a bigger awareness.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

After 15 Years

Each year, on this dark anniversary, we hear the stories of the heroes of 9/11. We read about the final words loved ones called to say. We hear about bravery, last kisses, love amidst the horror. It is good to remember, and it is good to hear stories that somehow give hope that all is not lost for humanity. And what I'm about to write is not meant to diminish those stories in any way.

For some reason, this year, I find myself thinking about the rest of the stories. I wonder about the people who were not brave. I wonder about the parents who fought with their teenagers before leaving the house in the morning. I wonder about the parents who were impatient with their toddlers, and then never saw them again. I wonder about the couples who didn't kiss each other good-bye, those who parted that morning amidst tension and hurt feelings. I wonder about the people who can't console themselves by thinking, "I said, 'I love you,' before I left." Some people had bad mornings on what turned into their worst day.

Today I am thinking of them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Baby My Baby Loves

Back in December, my sister had a delicious baby boy. I'm an auntie!

We love being with my nephew when we visit our family in Wisconsin. We were all, of course, delighted to welcome J to our family. But there is one among us who loves that baby perhaps a little more fiercely than the others. My dear, sweet Michael is over the moon about his cousin J. 




When my sister brought J to visit in May, Michael spent the entire weekend about as close to that baby as was physically possible. When he had to write a personal letter in second-grade, he wrote it to J. My sister sent a letter back as though J had written or dictated it. Michael sleeps with that letter on his nightstand. 

I asked him, not long ago, why he kept the letter there. He said, "Because I love J and when he feels far away I can read it and feel like he's with me." 

I've 99.9% come to peace with the fact that we won't have any more babies in this house, but Michael would have made a most wonderful big brother.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Don't Pay for Opinions at the Drive-Thru

We've had three days since summer break ended and this morning I took Michael in for a strep test. Welcome back to the Petri dish that is elementary school. Michael's been complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days but doesn't have any other symptoms. However when he woke me up this morning to tell me about it I decided I'd rather call the pediatrician than wait and end up at urgent care tomorrow or possibly missing school Monday.

The rapid test came back negative, so he probably just has some little viral thing going on - fingers crossed that it all passes without too much fanfare.

Michael was crying and shifting into panic mode at the mere mention of the doctor so I told him we'd get a McDonald's Hi-C afterward, as long as he cooperated. Which, ultimately, he did.

It was about a three minute drive from the office to the nearest McDonald's drive-thru, where I ordered Michael a medium (gasp) Hi-C. You guys, I know that I was just handing him a cup full of sugar, but a doctor just stuck a giant Q-tip down his throat, so I think most of you would agree that some sympathy corn syrup wasn't the worse parenting decision I've ever made. And yet, here is the conversation that followed:

Cashier: Is the Hi-C for him? (Gestures to Michael in the back seat)

Me: Yes.

Cashier: A medium?

Me: Yes.

Cashier: I just didn't think you'd want him to have so much this early in the morning.

What?!

I'm sure there are all kinds of cashiers who are judgmental about what people are purchasing, but I'm also pretty sure there is an unwritten social contract that suggests they keep it to themselves.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

I Went to See Rachel Platten and Came Home Without My Shoes

Earlier this week we took the children to a Rachel Platten concert, which was just as much fun as you'd expect it to be. But what I want to write about tonight is not what happened at the concert, but what happened on the way home.

We left the venue, it was dark, and we were walking back toward the car. The street we were walking down was a boulevard, with a grassy area in between the traffic moving in either direction. We crossed one part of the boulevard and ended up walking in the grassy median for a bit. I was wearing sandals and, as we walked, a leaf slid between one of my right toes and my sandal. I tried to shake it out, but it just didn't want to move and it was bothering me. I did a quick maneuver, not wanting to hold up people walking behind me, to free the leaf with my thumb. Instead of finding a leaf, my thumb sank into something soft...

You guys, there was poop in my shoe. And then, there was poop all over my thumb.

I'm not proud, but I started yell/shrieking, "It's poop! There's poop on my foot! And on my hand!" And the people around me, my family included, were understandably confused.

The next few minutes, in my mind, were frantic as I tried to fish wipes out of my purse without spreading the poop from my thumb to anything else. By the time we got to the car my hand was clean, but there was still poop in my shoe. I sat, without putting my legs in the car, removed my sandal, and cleaned my foot while the children gagged in the back seat. Once all traces of fecal matter were removed from my actual foot, I still had the problem of poop in my sandal.

You should know two things. One, Matt is driving a fairly new car. Two, the sandals I was wearing were not of the "hose it off" variety. I could not see a way to get the mess and smell out of the soft insole of the sandal.

Matt looked at me and said, "Leave it."

So I did. I left my poop shoe by the side of the road, with its partner, for good measure, and rode home barefoot.

That, my friends, is why I went to see Rachel Platten and came home without my shoes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Changes

It is a time of transitions, large and small, in our household. 

We changed our TV service today, which was both a small transition and a colossal pain in the rear.

Harper is getting ready to transition to middle school.

Michael is getting ready for his first stint as a bus rider, to be part of a new after school situation, and to go to elementary school without his sister.

I am getting ready to start at a new school. I'm also working on leaving things at my former school in good shape for a new person to take over. As I mentioned before, at the end of the year I didn't know I'd be leaving that library. Things weren't in bad shape on the last day of school, but they weren't left the way I would want a new person to find them, especially if he or she isn't hired yet and school begins in about two weeks. I thought, perhaps, that new librarian might not want to walk into a pile of books that need to be repaired! 

Matt isn't in the middle of any particular transition (other than learning the new TV channel numbers), but he does have to deal with all of us as we adjust.

There will be new teachers, new schedules, a new dance season (5 out of 7 days of the week someone will be at the studio), new homework expectations, new bosses, and new colleagues to get used to.

One of my favorite musicians, Dar Williams, once said, "I don't like change, but I'm good at it." 

I'm trying to be good at it, too. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to School Panic Organizing

In this part of the country we are already staring down the calendar at the first day of school. My children have almost four weeks of summer break left. I go back to work, gulp, three weeks from tomorrow! 

I love the library job I have done for the last two years. It has been a near perfect fit for my skill-set, my interests, and the amount of time and energy I want to give to a job considering the phase our family is in currently. I said, MORE THAN ONCE, at the end of the last school year, how happy I was to be coming back to the same job for the third year in a row. For one reason or another, including a break to be a stay-at-home parent, I haven't worked the same job for more than two years, ever. Unless you count babysitting gigs from my high school days. As much as I love my job, I also love summer break and mourn it as it draws to an end. I miss reading by the pool, waking up later than 6 a.m., impromptu ice cream runs, etc. When I'm at work, I rarely wish I was anywhere else; but when I've had a break from work, the thought of reentering the grind makes me want to hide under my covers, or maybe under a beach towel.

As it happens, I'm not returning to the same job in the fall. I'm still going to be a librarian, but at the other middle school in our district. Applying for that transfer was a difficult decision. Transferring means I will be at the same middle school Harper will attend. She's... not thrilled, but this will infinitely simplify our daily lives. Still, I loved the people I worked with and the space I worked in and I'm sorry I didn't get to say a proper good-bye, as the transfer didn't happen until after the school year had ended. Now, in the little amount of summer I have left, I'm trying to leave my old job space the way I would have wanted to find it as a new person coming to work there. I also need to get oriented in the new space. Needless to say, this year's back to school panic has been magnified.

Every year, when back to school panic mode sets in, I am consumed by an intense need to organize everything in sight. The efforts of this labor will undoubtedly be undone by the second week of school, but seeing order around me helps a little when my psyche is rattled.

And now... evidence of The Back to School Panic Organizing Event of 2016:


Fresh pencils, ready for the homework that will take place at the kitchen table. This shelf used to hold two plastic cups with broken colored pencils and eraser-less #2s. 


The bin holding other art supplies... now featuring items sorted into labeled containers. Micheal helped me test all the markers and every colored pencil has been sharpened. I even cleaned the sticky residue from the outsides and caps of the glue sticks. 


Here you see the ruthlessly weeded toy closet. Half of what was in there has been moved to basement storage or into bags for donation.


This is the magic binder that aims to tame the schedules, lunch menus, directories, and the thousand other pieces of paper that come home from school and activities. This week I emptied it of last school year's papers, which were either filed (report cards, some samples of the children's work, class pictures) or recycled (most of it).


The same binder: it has space for emergency information, allergy information, 6th grade information, 3rd grade information, and a few tabs for various activities. It lives in the kitchen next to the phone. In case you're wondering, there is a three-hole punch in the cabinet, right next to the casserole dishes.


Some of the home organizing spills over into work as well. Here are two of my binders for the upcoming school year. The binders with the plastic cover you can slide paper into might be my most favorite school supply innovation of all time.

Sorting, organizing, labeling - these are my grown up version of sucking my thumb - I find them soothing. To quote Rizzo, "There are worse things I could do..."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Campers (#tbt)

I was fortunate enough to have various camping experiences growing up and for years I've been wanting to share that kind of experience with my children. Unfortunately I hadn't done any actual camping since I was a camp counselor - a couple of decades ago. Even then, there were things about camping that I never had to figure out for myself. For example, the camp cook packed all our food for us, all we had to do was pull out the list of what we needed for each meal and cook it! 

As much as I wanted to take the children camping, there were a couple of things holding me back:

1) Camping requires a fair amount of stuff - very little of which we already owned.

2) The fact that I was the only person in our family with any tent camping experience whatsoever. 

My first major problem was solved when I found a good deal on a tent, back in September of 2014. 

We finally broke it in last July, camping for just one night at a KOA not too far from our house. I chose the KOA because it was relatively cheap - if the weather had dictated cancellation of our trip, we wouldn't have been out too much money. I also chose it for newly renovated bathrooms - I knew that too rustic or distant a bathroom was likely to scare my people off of camping forever. 

So off we went, we survived, and we even had a good time. 






The KOA was close and the bathrooms were nice. It also had a pool, which was beneficial since it can be HOT in Ohio in July. The disadvantages of the KOA were that it was crowded, a little noisy at night, and there wasn't a ton of room to hike or explore. If we'd spent two nights there I think we would have had to leave the campground to find things to do.

Then there was this:


That's the essence of camping for me. When it gets dark and quiet(er) and you sit around your campfire...there's an intimacy among the faces in the flickering light. Never mind that building and maintaining the fire ended up being a little more difficult than I remember! 

We are going camping again soon. Not at a KOA this time. We're trying something a tad more primitive and we're going for two nights. I'm optimistic. 

I want my children to have memories of camping and I believe they will. I don't think they'll remember sweating while we put up a tent, or a fire that doesn't want to start, or mosquito bites. I hope they'll remember the peacefulness that comes from being a little unplugged, the faces of their family by the light of a fire, seeing the stars, telling stories, and just being together.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Internet is Strange

I just had an unexpected trip down memory lane.

There is a moisturizer I like to use on my face that has become difficult to find. It finally occurred to me today that I could look on drugstore.com. After finding it and attempting to check out, I realized I already had an account on the site. I couldn't, however, imagine what I'd purchased from drugstore.com in the past.

When I checked out I noticed that a message said they would add the items to my "list" for future ordering.

It turns out the old items I ordered were still on my list. It was actually just one item, ordered in June of 2007.  Want to guess what it was?

(I'll leave a little space here, in case you're actually guessing...)






It was:

(Keep scrolling.)




A box of pregnancy tests - the very ones that told me Michael was on the way.

That was not something I expected to think about today.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beverly Cleary

About two weeks ago Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old. This little nugget may have escaped you. Unless, of course, you are routinely part of activities in an early elementary school sort of setting. Or maybe if you're slightly obsessed with children's literature.

I wanted to write a post about Beverly Cleary on her actual birthday, but it wasn't meant to be. Mostly because I was truly unable to think about her celebrating 100 years without getting a lump in my throat and having the letters on the screen go blurry. You see, I adore Beverly Cleary.

I can understand that maybe, just maybe, her books are right for everyone. But I think it is a rare soul who isn't at least a little charmed by Ramona Quimby and her family; or a child who hasn't smiled at a toy motorcycle, thinking of Mr. Ralph S. Mouse. It's hard to not be impressed with someone who could write stories that still resonate as she turns 100, many of which were published more than 50 years ago.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Beverly Cleary's books have touched all parts of my life.

Ramona came into my life in first grade, when our librarian read us Ramona the Pest. Over the years I heard other Beverly Cleary books read aloud, either by our librarian or by my classroom teachers. By second grade I was reading and rereading every Beverly Cleary book available in our teeny-tiny library. They were the old fashioned library versions, bound in pebbly orange or pea green covers. When book orders came into my life I ordered as many Beverly Cleary books as possible, wanting my very own copies to read and read again. As I child I identified with rule-follower Beezus, but got such a thrill reading about the scrapes Ramona got into. Thanks to Beverly Cleary I was able to vicariously experience the rush of pulling another child's hair, refusing to do school work, or - gasp - coloring in a library book!

Time passed and I became a student teacher and shared the Beverly Cleary's Muggie Maggie with a group of second graders as they began the daunting task of learning to write in cursive.

Eventually I had my own classes full of fresh-faced first graders and together we read many Beverly Cleary titles. Often the Ralph stories and always Ramona the Brave. While the emotional core of the stories hold up very well, there are a few references that need some explaining, which always ended in interesting conversations with my students. In one of the books there is an incident in which Henry Huggins' dog, Ribsy, gets locked in the Quimby's bathroom. One year I was teaching at a fairly affluent school and none of the children could figure out why it mattered that the dog was in stuck in there and no one else could enter. It never occurred to them that a house might have only one bathroom! When I told them that Matt and I lived in a house with one bathroom (true at the time), one of the students gasped and said, "Mrs. M, are you poor?!" I will never forget the horrified look on her face. I hope she remembers some of the conversation that followed.

The greatest joy, however, has probably been introducing Beverly Cleary's books to my own children. The relatively obscure Ellen Tebbits is the title that has taken up a special place in Harper's heart. Michael, being of prime Beverly Cleary enjoying age, is still figuring out which one will be his favorite.

It's a safe bet that I'll be sending some titles along to my nephew in a few years. And sooner or later, some other lucky child is going to rediscover the stash of Beverly Cleary books on my shelves and they will delight another generation.

I've pulled some of my favorite videos and articles from the days leading up to, and including, Mrs. Cleary's birthday and I'm going to link to them here. If you are even half as fond of her as I am, do your self a favor and enjoy them:

The Today Show interview:
http://www.today.com/video/children-s-author-beverly-cleary-on-turning-100-i-didn-t-do-it-on-purpose-652185155745

7 Things You Didn't Know from pbs.org:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-beverly-cleary/

11 Things You Didn't Know from Woman's Day:
http://www.womansday.com/life/entertainment/g2314/beverly-cleary-facts/

100 Years Surrounded by Books form The Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/author-beverly-cleary-struggled-to-find-books-she-loved/2016/04/11/abc6a8d8-fa8e-11e5-80e4-c381214de1a3_story.html

To Beverly Cleary with love, from other children's authors:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/entertainment/to-beverly-cleary-with-love-from-other-childrens-authors/2016/04/11/604b9624-fdaf-11e5-813a-90ab563f0dde_video.html
(I lost it when Judy Blume spoke...)

Beverly Cleary turning 100 from npr:
http://www.npr.org/2016/04/11/473558659/beverly-cleary-is-turning-100-but-she-has-always-thought-like-a-kid

And then this 1/2 hour jewel from Oregon Public Broadcasting:
http://www.opb.org/television/video/cove-oregon-art-beat-discovering-beverly-cleary/

Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for your wonderful contributions to the world of children's literature. My life, and that of so many others, is richer for it.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Word of Advice

It is the way of life that we are like our parents in some ways and unlike them in others. When I was growing up, it was very important to my mother that our house be clean. Now I'm not saying I love living in filth, but sparkling floors and mirrors have taken a back seat to many other priorities in my life. However, I am a lot like my mother in that I prefer to be things to be organized and picked up/put away. I won't lose sleep over a few dust bunnies, but having stuff everywhere drives me crazy.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we have an ongoing battle over the state of Harper's bedroom. If there is one thing I wish she would learn over any other, it's this:

Start by making your bed.

I think a made bed is to a bedroom as clear counters are to a kitchen. It gives the illusions of cleanliness and tidiness. I know that I feel better about life when my bed is made (which is 95% of days) and when the kitchen counters are clear (sadly, more like 40% of the time).

Dear children - even if there are piles of books and dirty socks beneath your bed, even if there are more items of clothing beneath your hangers than on them, for the love of all that is good and holy, please make your beds!

Mom, out.


Saturday, March 05, 2016

On the Verge

Dear Harper,

I never managed a birthday letter the year you turned 10. Lest you be too upset, you should remember that Michael turned 7 and didn't get a letter either. I'm not sure why I didn't get around to it last year. A combination, perhaps, of us being wrapped up in our busy days and the fact that it is getting more difficult to write about the two of you in a way that feels respectful. With each passing year I'm more acutely aware that you made read these words someday, and that it will matter what I've said.

In November you turned 11. 11. I still can't quite get my head around it; how much more grown up you seem suddenly. You in a kind of stuck-in-the-middle age. Too old for many things that appeal to little kids, but not quite old enough for all the adult (or even young adult) movies, television shows, and books. You desperately want to be big. In so many ways I see you maturing and feel some of the, "I'm the adult, you are the child," lines starting to soften and blur.

The other day I accidentally used a word I wouldn't normally use around you and when I apologized you gave me a look and said, "It's not anything I haven't heard before Mom, I'm in fifth grade." And I know that's true. I have distinct memories of experimenting with creative vocabulary with my friends when I was even younger than you are now.

There have been several big changes in your life this year and for the most part you seem to have handled them with grace. Your commitment to dance increased dramatically. Most weeks you are at the studio for about eleven hours and you are probably getting a little less sleep than is optimal. The main side effect of this seems to be that you have absolutely no time whatsoever for cleaning up and your room is in a state of nearly perpetual chaos. While this drives me crazy, it doesn't seem to bother you in the least. I'm hopeful that you won't actually grow up to be a hoarder.

You've got attitude for miles, which is no surprise, as you've been finely honing the skills of eye-rolling and stomping for a couple of years. Your attitude has grown as you've aged and I know I'd be foolish to expect that to plateau soon.

Fortunately your attitude isn't the only quality that has been magnified as you've gotten older. You have also grown in empathy, responsibility, and determination. In most endeavors you continue to be fiercely independent, wanting as little help from us as possible. You are starting to feel a little nervous about heading to middle school next year, but I have a feeling the qualities you've been cultivating are going to serve you well.

I would be remiss not to mention the two activities you have grown to feel passionately about, aside from dance. You are learning to play volleyball, which I'll admit is exciting to me. There is something special about watching your child pick up a sport or activity that you once loved. The other activity that has newly been a big part of your life is playing in the Orff Ensemble at your elementary school. You've enjoyed learning the different instruments involved and are definitely developing a passion for playing music. It will be very interesting to see what kinds of choices you make in the next couple of years.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you always realize that we love you and we're proud of you. I never could have imagined, when you were just a tiny baby, how much joy and passion you would bring to all of our lives. So many things are going to change in the next year or two - we will do our very best to be there for you and love you through all of it.

Love,
Mom