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ballet

Lara Spencer, Prince George, Ballet, Fabrice Calmels, GMA

Good Morning America’s Lara Spencer went on national television and mocked Prince George for taking ballet classes. She openly burst into laughter at the thought of a little boy dancing ballet and I’m disgusted by her and her way of thinking. It’s outdated and misogynistic.

We live in a world where women and little girls are not treated equally to men and boys. It’s not my opinion, it’s a fact and if you are a woman or a little girl, you know this firsthand. It starts when we are born, in some countries.

In some countries, if you are born with a vagina, you might as well have been born missing a head because they find you useless. And in every single country, if you are born a girl, you are held to a different set of rules and made to feel like a belonging.

It always blows my mind when women don’t support women or worse still, support men who see women as less than. I feel there has to be some self-loathing percolating right beneath the surface. It downright blows my mind (and breaks my heart) when women are not the champions of feminism but a misogynist. I’m not even sure how that works. How do you reconcile yourself to being part of the problem?

Lara Spencer, you are part of the problem.

A grown woman laughing and mocking a little boy for taking ballet is everything that is wrong with the world. Lara Spencer, in my opinion, is as bad as an ignorant misogynistic man who calls little boy’s sissies. I’m not sure exactly what she found so funny that she couldn’t contain her laughter. Be careful Lara Spencer, your ignorance, uncouthness and misogyny are showing.

As a mom of ballerinas, who has spent a whole lot of years in the dance world, Lara Spencer’s outburst into laughter during the Good Morning America’s segment mocking Prince George for dancing ballet was one of the worst displays of ignorance that I’ve ever been witness to. Did I mention she was laughing at a little boy? How insensitive and ignorant can one adult woman be in the span of a minute?

Anyone in the ballet world can attest to the fact that there is a severe shortage of men in the ballet world. There are plenty of beautiful, graceful ballerinas ( who are, by the way, in my opinion, some of the most elite athletes that there are) but finding young boys and men to enter the ballet world is challenging for just this very reason. Boys are afraid of being mocked, bullied and teased for dancing by ignorant bullies not unlike Lara Spencer.

Everyone in the ballet world knows that real men lift women.

Boys who dance ballet are not “sissies”.  It’s not an insult to be talented and dance. Boys who dance ballet are elite athletes who defy gravity. Men who dance are gifted, strong mind and able-bodied individuals who spend their days surrounded by and working side-by-side with ballerinas; dancing and partnering to make beautiful art for the rest of us. What could possibly be wrong with that? What about that is laughable?

Dancers tell stories with only using their bodies. Their bodies are finetuned instruments that take years of training and dedication to achieve. For any child to be brave enough and have the passion and drive to begin that journey at such a young age ( my girls started dancing at 2 and started ballet at 7, dancing by the time they are 10, 5 days a week for hours on end) is impressive. They work so hard for so long and push their bodies and minds as far as they will go. Lara Spencer’s flippant attitude and insensitivity towards the ballet community is a reflection of her ignorance not the dance world.

Several coaches bring their football players in to take ballet classes to learn discipline and control, to finesse their own playing skills. Ballet makes you better in so many ways.

Real men wear tights.

Have you ever heard of Fabrice Calmels? He’s a French ballet dancer at the Joffrey. He’s 6 foot 6 inches. He is the tallest male dancer there is. He is an elite athlete who is at the top of his field. My daughters are tall. When they started to get disappointed because they got too tall to partner, Fabrice was their inspiration. He is a role model for many young dancers; boys and girls.

Photos: @FabriceCalmels Instagram

No matter if you have an appreciation for the ballet or not, you have to have true respect and admiration for the hard work, dedication, drive and talent it takes to dance ballet in a world full of cynics and grown women who laugh at little boys who dance ballet.

What do you think of Laura Spencer’s antics? Do you think an apology is enough? And is it really an apology if you’re only doing it because you’ve been called out by the public for being a jerk? I don’t think so.

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ballet, dancer, cheerleader

This year, my youngest daughter decided that she wanted to try something new and she doesn’t want to dance anymore… for now. She wanted to try cheerleading. She’s been dancing since she was 2-years-old. I started to feel her pulling away from dance last year. I tried to resist. If you could see her do ballet, she is a natural; graceful and refined but she longs for something different.

She’s trying to escape the shadow of her sister and is tired of being referred to by most as simply, “Little Bella”. At school, everyone constantly compares her to her big sister. They mistake the 2 of them all the time. They call her by her sister’s name. People have asked if they are twins, despite the fact that they are 2 years apart and look very different and have even more different personalities.  I don’t see it. I never have. I see Bella and I see Gabi.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

But Gabi has been feeling dwarfed by her big sister’s shadow. I was the big sister so I don’t know exactly how this feels. But I am sympathetic to her challenge.

Bella in the past 2 years has been diving head first into the deep end of ballet. She loves it and she wants to move forward. She’s in the youth company and she’s dedicated to the point where she has dropped every other extra-curricular activity that she was involved in. Bella knows that ballet is a sacrifice but she doesn’t mind.

READ ALSO: How to Raise Resilient Children When Everyone Gets a Trophy

Last year, Gabs wanted to do the same. Well, she wanted to be with her big sister. She joined the company and she was there a lot of hours for a ten-year-old. I was afraid it would overwhelm her. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I had daydreams of the two of them dancing Russian in Nutcracker together. I know it sounds stupid.

By the middle of last year, Gabi was overwhelmed and she quit the company before the 3rd production. I had to let her because she’s the one doing all the work but it hurt. It wasn’t what I had seen for her future.  I know ballet is not forever for them but I really wanted to see them perform together on stage.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

Then this summer, she told me that she was not doing Youth company and she wasn’t sure that she even wanted to dance. She wanted to cheer with her friends. Bella used to cheer but she’s always been more of a ballerina than a cheerleader. There is a big difference. Both take a lot of work but it’s different.

Anyways, Gabs told me that she was only going to do 1 of her recommended 3 classes and she was going to do pointe and tap. I knew, in my heart, this was letting go. She had one foot in each world. I’ve been watching her cheer and she loves it. Whether it is being with her friends or just the freedom to be loud and unrestrained, she seems happier. She looks like she can finally exhale.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

But she is such an amazing dancer. She is one of those people with so much natural rhythm and grace that it is almost a shame to not dance. She is one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever seen. Her lines are exquisite. Plus, when you are dancing, you are the star. Even when you are part of the corps, you are still dancing in a spotlight. Cheerleading is being the support for a team. It’s being the woman behind the man and that makes me cringe, just a little bit. But she lights up.

She was doing both. In fact, she insisted that she audition for the Nutcracker this year when I was sure that she would want to sit this one out. She cheers at games a couple times a week and then there is practice plus her dance classes. But she was adamant about auditioning.

Recently,  the cast list went up and when she saw that she was assigned a part that she has done twice previously, one that she did not do last year because she had leveled up, she was heartbroken and there was nothing I could do.

READ ALSO: What’s so Special About the Nutcracker

I tried to explain to her tiny heart broken into a million tiny pieces that when you straddle too many worlds you do them all disservice. You can’t give half the effort and expect twice the results. You have to give the dedication and hard work to move forward; to move up. It’s so hard to explain this concept to someone so young.

After a long, long cry she came to me and told me, very maturely, that she doesn’t want to dance anymore for now. She feels overwhelmed doing cheer and ballet because both schedules are demanding.

On the inside, my heart was breaking because I feel like she is making a mistake. I feel like she has a gift for ballet and she is throwing an opportunity away but then I remind myself, it is her gift to do with what she may.  I can’t force her to do the work and I don’t want to make her hate it.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

So, I told her that she can take the year off. She will still be doing barre work and bands at home and at the end of the school year, we will reassess. Maybe she’ll realize that she misses performing and dancing. Maybe she will be glad to have it off of her plate but either way, I will always be here to support her and love her.

But, in my mamma heart, I still have big dreams of my girls dancing Russian together on the stage together. For now, you can find me on the football field cheering on the cheerleaders, at the ballet cheering on my ballerina and at home telling them both that they can be anything they are willing to work hard for and nothing worth having is free. I’ll keep leading by example and hope that’s enough.

Either way, it’s not about me. It’s about them. My hope is to raise good, hardworking, honest, self-confident girls who feel like they can come to me and talk about everything when they need to. I will listen and try not to judge. Make good choices girls but also, I will be here to guide you because that’s what moms do…even when we’re letting you choose. We let go, even when we want to hold on tighter.

The bottom line is we can’t force our children to do anything that doesn’t bring them joy and expect them to excel at it. They have to do the work and we have to respect that. But we can hope.

What have you had to let go of and let your child make the decision for themselves?

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

I can’t believe that Nutcracker season is already here. If you’re a ballet mom or a ballerina, you know that we mark time by Nutcracker and Swan Lake seasons. It is common knowledge that the weekend after Labor Day, Nutcracker season begins. You can’t even imagine the excitement in my neck of the woods ( the ballet studio) about the upcoming movie Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

While the rest of the world is celebrating Pumpkin Spice season, we’re celebrating the Nutcracker Season. This is our life for the next 4 months and we love every single second of it (mostly). Little kids tend to complain in the middle of it but the moment they take the stage and bask in the glow of the house lights, the magic is worth every single rehearsal, sore foot, and achy hamstrings. Believe me when I tell you that ballet dancers are more than graceful, nymph-like fairy creatures… they are fierce, elite athletes. Don’t be fooled by the tutus and pointe shoes. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to look that graceful.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

READ ALSO: What’s so Special about the Nutcracker?

My girls have been dancing since they were 2-years-old. It started with creative dance classes, once a week for ½ an hour. Now, at ages 11 and 13-years-old, they dance 5–12 hours a week, respectively and this is with scaling their schedules back. They love to dance but the intensity and dedication can be a little overwhelming and challenging, though embraced, for children this young. The commitment and passion are real.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

My husband laughs at me because every time I watch them perform, my heart swells with pride and my eyes leak because I’m so proud of them. I’ve been driving them and watching practices and rehearsals since they’ve been toddlers and what the audience sees as a few minutes, I know the hours, years and dedication it has taken to get to that one minute. I have never been so devoted to anything, except for being their mother. So for these young ladies and gentleman to give so much of themselves makes me proud of them in ways that are hard to put into words.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

Nutcracker is one of our biggest productions. Our ballet produces one of Forbes Magazine’s top 10 Nutcracker productions in the country. That’s a big reputation to live up to every year and still, every year, our creative director rises to the challenge and levels up in new and unexpected ways. Each year the Nutcracker is more magical than the last.

We had auditions last weekend and soon, we’ll find out what parts the girls have been assigned. This is my Bella’s 9th Nutcracker and will be Gabi’s 6th Nutcracker season. It’s something we look forward to every year and celebrate as a family. Nutcracker and family night, celebrated with some sugary indulgence befitting of the Land of Sweets.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

My girls and all of their friends are excited to see Disney’s new big screen version of our favorite classic ballet, the Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I’m interested in seeing the adaptation and how Disney tells the story of Clara’s adventures. The synopsis is as follows.

READ ALSO: The Lump in my Heart Runneth Over

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets.

Misty Copeland, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key. Hopefully, returning harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston. Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms is inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale.

Misty Copeland, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

This part, the Fourth Realm and the idea of Mother Ginger as a villain have me very intrigued. I can’t wait to take my daughters to see how the story unfolds in mysterious and intriguing new ways. You know with a little Disney pixie dust, Clara’s adventure can only get more magical.

Have you seen the Nutcracker classic ballet on stage? If you have, it’s probably close to your heart and surrounded by a lifetime of fond memories.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas traditionAre you looking forward to seeing Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms?

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Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

This past week, Bella performed in her 7th Nutcracker and Gabs in her 4th. I remember Bella’s 1st like it was yesterday. I remember how my heart swelled and that tiny little snowflake made my heart burst. I thought that was it. That was as big as a mama’s heart could get. I was wrong.

raising girls, to the moon and back, ballet, nutcracker

The girls are getting older and the parts are getting more advanced technically and more detailed. They are no longer the littlest ballerinas practicing for a month for one singular part on stage for 30 seconds in the first half. They have advanced into the world of double castings and multiple roles. They are battling in the first half, quick changing and ethereally descending upon the land of sweets in Act 2. This is exciting if not exhausting.

READ ALSO: The Tiniest Soldier

 

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

Gabi’s 1st Nutcracker

 

They embrace every new part and responsibility like it’s their job. You know, if you really loved your job. Every night since Thanksgiving weekend, the girls have been at either rehearsal or performances after school from 4 to 11 p.m. and that doesn’t even include the school performances they were a part of during 3 of those days.

American Girl, Doll, Children's hospital, holiday gift guide 2014, best gifts for girls

I am awed at how they not only endure this grueling schedule but embrace every single moment of it. They came home every night either dressed their American Girl dolls as the cast of the Nutcracker and reenacted the ballet or they played the Marinsky Nutcracker on-demand and danced along. How they had the energy, I will never know but they thrive in this environment. I’m exhausted just from driving them, I can’t imagine how tired I’d be if I were actually dancing every day.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

The thing with ballet and any ballet mom will tell you this, is that it takes an inordinate amount of discipline and dedication, especially when you are in those transition years between a child and a young woman. That is where my girls are at. Bella is at ballet 5 days a week and she loves every single moment. She is excited to go there; to dance and to be with her friends. It’s taken me 9 years but I finally realized that dance is not something you do, it’s a way of life.

READ ALSO: Stolen Moments

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

This year, Gabi was an angel for the second year and Bella was the lead soldier in the brigade and the biggest bonbon. Both girls did an amazing job and I’m not just saying that as their mom, I’m saying that as an avid ballet enthusiast.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

The one thing that I will never forget about this year’s Nutcracker is not the backstage drama (which there is always plenty of), the difficulty of quick change make-up and costume changes or even the sheer coma-like exhaustion we all succumb to during Nutcracker season, no the thing I will never forget is seeing my daughters’ faces light up as soon as the music begins to swell.

raising girls, to the moon and back, ballet, nutcracker

 

First, let me preface this by saying that every time that I see my daughters’ perform, I get a little misty eyed. I’m a mom, that’s what you do when you see them growing up right before your eyes. However, I don’t normally get so choked up that the tears linger long after the show is over. That happened to me this year.

raising girls, to the moon and back, ballet, nutcracker

Seeing your child do something for the first time, never gets old. Watching your child take the stage after months of practice, rehearsals and dedication and absolutely nailing it is priceless but seeing your child exude true, real happiness when performing is moving.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

This year, for the first time in a long time, when Bella took the stage as a Bon Bon I saw real happiness not only exude but actually escape her. She was smiling so hard and enjoying herself so much that you couldn’t help but enjoy her performance. It wasn’t the fake performance smile that all mothers know too well, it was genuine, complete and confident satisfaction with herself. I didn’t just get misty-eyed, I full on cried and then I cried again over dinner that night two hours later because I got so choked up remembering that smile, the same one I saw the time she took her first step.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

The girls did an amazing job and I’m so proud of them. They are already discussing which parts they hope to get next year. Collectively they’ve already played a little snowflake, a parrot, a page, an angel (X4), a baby soldier, soldier brigade (x2), a mouse and a Bon Bon. Who knows what the next year might bring? What I do know is that I will be there; watching from side stage as my girls give me a thumbs up, a wink or a special smile and I’ll be in the audience watching and getting choked up like I always do because that’s what we do. I’ll be there to support their dreams however I need to.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

What’s been a moment in parenting where you’ve just been so proud of your child that you almost couldn’t keep your composure?

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas tradition

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ballet, how to keep clothes looking brand new, OxiClean,laundry

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by OxiClean through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about OxiClean™ all opinions about how to keep clothes looking like new are my own.

Laundry is not my favorite thing to do. Not even close. I think it’s probably every parent’s least favorite chore. It’s time consuming and if you have girls, like I do, their clothes seem to multiply in the hamper. It seems like everyone wants to buy them clothes for every occasion because they love fashion and it is a lot of fun to buy clothes for girls. But one look in their closets, in their drawers and on their floors and you will see that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

As my girls get older and become more involved in their different activities they need higher quality clothing to hold up to the grueling classes, practices and rehearsals. When you pay a little more for things, it makes sense that you want to take a little better care of them. As the girls get older, they take more pride in how they present themselves and how their things look. They know that how they present themselves is a reflection of who they are to the world.

That meant that I had to figure out how to keep clothes looking like new.

ballet, how to keep clothes looking brand new, OxiClean,laundry, how to keep clothes looking like new

As they enter the tween years, dingy leotards and faded uniforms are no longer acceptable. Cheer uniforms have to be bright and bold. Gymnastics and ballet leotards have to be crisp, clean, bright and fresh smelling and school uniforms have to pop. This is not a dress rehearsal; this is real life.

The girls are no longer dressing up as princesses and make-believe characters. This is not imagination play. They are no longer those tiny toddlers who were obsessed with wearing the same princess dress, every day until it was tattered and torn. They are growing into young ladies and want their appearance to reflect the effort they put into becoming these young ladies. A quality product is not only going to last longer and hold up better, it’s an investment into the quality of your life.

All of this has led me to a point in my life where I’m taking better care of the things we own, including our clothes. I’ve always used OxiClean™ to get stubborn stains out of my favorite clothes. After all, it is America’s #1 stain-fighting brand because it’s powerful but safe for those favorite pieces you love. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep your favorite shirt bright and white, but instead the detergent destroys it by being too strong. That’s the absolute worst. OxiClean™ won’t do that.

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Now OxiClean™ has a new product, OxiClean™ HD™ Laundry Detergent. It’s a higher quality laundry detergent that removes tough stains, reveals vibrant colors, and restores whites powered by the effective (but safe for your clothes) OxiClean™ stain-fighter technology.

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That’s fantastic news for me because the girls have joined the ballet’s youth company and each year I make a large investment in ballet leotards. They are not super expensive, but when your daughters are in ballet 6 days a week, you have to invest in professional quality leotards and you definitely need more than one per child.

ballet, how to keep clothes looking brand new, OxiClean,laundry, how to keep clothes looking like new

Per requirement of the ballet, those leotards must be pristine at all times. They need to be crisp, clean, and free from stains to meet the standards of the ballet school. Per my daughters, these leotards have to be proper and worthy of the harsh lights of the stage and the scrutiny of an audience. I’m using the OxiClean™ HD™ Detergent to keep them looking new and to withstand multiple washes. The girls both have sensitive skin so for their leotards I use the OxiClean™ HD™ Laundry Detergent Perfume and Dye free. For the Big Guy and I, we love the fresh scent.

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What’s it worth to you to keep those special pieces in your wardrobe looking like brand new? Is there anything you wouldn’t do to give your child the tools to take pride in themselves and have the confidence to chase after their dreams?

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Gabi, birthday, ballet, recital, turning 7, birthday, love letter, love letter to my 7-year-old, love letter to my child

Today, I wrote a love letter to my daughter on her 7th birthday. My Gabi, my last baby turns 7-years-old. She is sort of amazing. I look at her and I can’t believe how much she has changed in 7 short years. She is nowhere near the chubby, 8 pounds 6 ounces, full head of black curly hair baby that I delivered who looked up with those giant big blue eyes and melted my heart. She stopped me in my tracks. That baby girl took my breath away and stole my heart forever. My love for my girls is immeasurable. Every year I try to quantify it for them in some way in a post, a love letter to my child, but it always falls short because how can you express the true meaning of to the moon and back plus infinity with all that I am or will ever be? It’s the kind of all-consuming love that hurts.

READ ALSO: Love Letter to my Five year-old

Today, the tall, waif-thin little girl with scraped knees and long flowing strawberry blonde hair with those same big blue eyes that make my heart happy is constantly changing. The freckles that kiss the tops of her cheeks beg me to kiss them and commit them to memory because at this moment, I know, she is changing, evolving, every single second. I breathe in deep and I inhale this moment, this child that she is right this minute. This same child who runs hot and cold at all times, the one who is so passionate about her convictions that sometimes she gets in her own way. How I adore her verve for life.

This is my love letter for your 7th year.

Gabs,

You came into my world and have been my happiness ever since. Your smiles soothe me, your tears tear me down and your sadness destroys me. Your laughter is contagious and infectious and can heal the world. On this 7th anniversary of the day you were born, my beautiful, amazing girl, I wish you a lifetime of the same wholehearted, all in love that you give to others.

 

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You are moody and broody and artistic and funny and vibrant and in total living Technicolor. You are a rainbow and a unicorn and all that the world has to offer that is good. You are shy and that scares me because the thought of you feeling unsure breaks my heart because I can’t fix this for you. But I am here, for today and for always, to hold your hand, to wipe away the tears and yes, to kick anyone’s ass my mama bear heart needs to. You drive me crazy with your independence when it’s in direct opposition to my plan but, inside, I am so proud of you for standing your ground.

READ ALSO: Love Letter to My Tween

I love that you stick up for what you believe in and for the underdog. I love your stubbornness and your follow through. I love that your heart compels you to get involved when you see a homeless person, sick person or a sad child. I love you for being exactly who you are and I would never change a thing about that. You are the perfect you in every way.

 

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I celebrate you and all that you have become today and I celebrate the day that I met one of the most amazing people that I’ve ever known. I wish you a lifetime of love and acceptance of yourself, I want you to see and love yourself the way I see you; perfect, just the way you are.

 

Gabi, birthday, ballet, recital, turning 7, birthday, love letter, love letter to my 7-year-old, love letter to my child

Happiest 7th Birthday, my sweet baby girl, with the giant heart. Mommy loves you to the moon and back plus infinity and beyond. Oops, gotta go kiss someone, it’s her birth minute.

XOXO

When was the last time you wrote a real, handwritten love letter?

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stolen moments, raising girls, Nutcracker

I was awoken this morning by the sweet, soft baby-like voice of my 6-year-old as she leaned in close and whispered into my ear, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?” Half asleep and not quite sure whether I was dreaming or awake, I scooted over and made room in for her in my warm bed, we snuggled close because I know these moments are fleeting with every day that passes; soon she will stop coming to me for comfort in the middle of the night.

It’s not always like this. Sometimes, she presses her face close to mine, loudly announces her presence and startles me into consciousness and my first reaction is to take her immediately back to her own bed but not today. This is what all the parenting books teach us to do, right? But why? What’s more important; following some guideline or embracing all the moments of childhood? Life is short and I plan on stealing all the moments with my children that I can.

We’ve been completely enveloped in the Nutcracker for the past two weeks, in case you were wondering where I’ve been. It’s been an emotional and exhausting time for all of us. No time for distractions, I want to be present. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it.

parrot1

Gabs approached her first season with trepidation. I gently nudged her to continue on, as mothers do. Reassuring her that I will always be there, when she turns around to support and love her. Bella only needs my presence now as a touchstone of normalcy in all the chaos; to calm the opening night jitters and do her make-up. Gabi looks to Bella to calm her. My role in all of this is like a beloved and worn pair of ballet slippers. I am comfortable and familiar.

I’ve been backstage the entire time, just like every year, providing moral support, reassurance and love…when requested otherwise keeping my distance to let my girls grow and shine. It’s a delicate balancing act to let go and still keep hold of our children. But, once they take the stage, I exhale. I watch from stage left with pride and love as I choke back the tears as Tchaikovsky swells throughout the theater. This has become a sort of a love song to my daughters.

I can’t hear the Waltz of the Snowflakes without tearing up as I remember my Bella taking the stage for the first time at 5-years-old as my tiny ethereal snowflake.  When I hear the battle scene, I remember my little soldier and tiny mouse that bravely took the stage and danced even when she began to feel fluish.  My heart nearly bursts out of my chest when the orchestra begins to play the Enchanted Palace and the Kingdom of sweets because I can see my Bella, my angel, floating under the house lights as the smoke machine transforms the stage into a magical place.

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The same thing happens now, when I hear the music for the dance of Arabian Coffee. You might hear beautiful music, I see my Gabs dressed as a parrot taking the stage for the first time ever, trying her damnest to remember the intricate dance. I see the nervous smile that only I know is nerves and not stage presence. I feel the relief and pride in her hug as she safely exits stage right and lands safely back into my familiar arms. I see the side-glances and smiles meant just for me off stage. I know the comfort they take that I am there and it makes me happy these stolen moments that we have together, that no one else knows about.

Parenthood is big and all consuming sometimes it feels like a job instead of an honor but it is, you know? The greatest privilege I’ve ever had is stealing moments with these two amazing creatures that I get to call my daughters and now, I must rouse everyone from their slumber because we’re not done yet. We have three more performances; three more chances to soak in these once in a lifetime moments that we so often take for granted.

It’s so easy to get lost in the holiday season and obsess over making it the perfect holiday that it becomes a chore. This has happened to us every year but this year, we made the conscious decision to make the moments together count. It’s not about what it looks like to other people; it’s not about things. It’s about what it feels like. It’s cuddling during down time watching Christmas movies, it’s about making fudge with daddy and cookies with grandma. It’s about letting the girls decorate one tree any way they want to without moving or straightening a single ornament. It’s about stealing kisses with my husband and moments with our daughters.

What’s your favorite stolen moment?

 

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You know how people tell you that you have such good kids and you are like..go on! Because you know the bickering and squabbles that come with the minutia of daily living but in your heart you know. You know that your kids may have their faults but they are good. They are better than good. They are everything you ever hoped for in a child…well, most of the time.

gabsaudition

Sunday was a HUGE day in our home. There was a lot of growing up going on and even a little letting go. Sunday was Nutcracker auditions, which are always a big deal in our house because my girls wait all year to be able to have the chance to audition to have a part in the city’s Nutcracker production. This is our Big Show. Gabi’s been chomping at the bit for the past 4 years and it is finally her turn. This will be Bella’s 4th production if she is chosen. Come on, this is a mom blog, I have to be allowed the occasional brag on my girls.

Sunday morning started off like most Sunday’s; coffee, conversations and the Food Network followed by the adults doing some cleaning and kids doing homework, which meant we all got to listen to Bella become unrusty on the violin. Gabi was a little skittish. It was going to be her first time and the nervous energy was palpable.  I tried to alleviate her fears but what the hell do I know, I’ve never danced ballet or auditioned for a production. Luckily, her big sister is a pro. Well, as pro as you can be at 8-years-old and in your sixth year of ballet. Crazy, right? I don’t know that I’ve done anything for 6 years, except for parent, write and marriage.

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Bella is the suck it up kid in our family. Gabi is the lay down on the floor and throw a tantrum until you drag her out kicking and screaming one. Bella got dressed for the audition, urging her little sister to do the same. Gabi happily obliged. Then Bella took Gabi to our living room and proceeded to help her stretch out and demonstrated the entire audition choreography for her little sister and then she told her what a great hob she did, carefully instructing her to correct any weaknesses but not in that snotty big sister way that I see on a daily basis but in a very caring, compassionate adult way. I was blown away, almost brought to tears watching it all go down.

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Gabi may be growing up, in first grade, growing like a beautiful weed (4 inches this summer, both girls),  losing her first tooth ( because she did that on Sunday too) and auditioning like a big girl but her sister is maturing. She is becoming less of an equal to her sister and more of a mother hen and not just in the “I’m your boss” kind of way that I know all to well. Bella is finally comprehending that her sister looks up to her and she is her role model…like it or not. Instead of fighting it, she is embracing it and it’s making growing up easier on her sister. I am so proud of both of them.

With a renewed confidence, both girls auditioned on Sunday. Gabi was a lot less nervous than she was a few hours earlier thanks to her big sister taking her under her magical big sister wing. In just the right light, they both looked a lot like angels to me that day.

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Snowflake

Snowflake, be still my beating heart. Saturday, the day we’d been waiting for for the past 3 years finally happened.Ella started ballet when she was  3 and since then has been longing, planning for the day when she would be in our city’s ballet production of the Nutcracker. I remember the first days of taking her to ballet class, she was so nervous and uncoordinated. She was practically a baby in her pink tights, leotard and ballet slippers. She was so small, it was difficult to even find shoes that fit her appropriately. But like all things she sets her mind to, Ella achieves what she desires. She doesn’t really understand limitations. I like it that way. I hope she never loses that. Saturday was one of the destinations that this journey has been headed towards. Saturday was the first time she was old enough to audition. We woke up Saturday morning. I was nauseated from nerves. Ella was excited. As I put on her tights and leotard, I could feel the stress building inside me. While pulling her hair back into her ballerina knot, I was almost brought to tears by the thought of what if she isn’t chosen. She has been looking forward to this day for over half of her short life. As she pulled on her rain boots, I realized this was one of those defining moments in her life. This was the day she either became a performing ballerina or the first day she experienced rejection.Either way, I was nervous for her.

Daddy’s little Snowflake

We walk in to the dance theater and register. The place is packed full of a range of ballerinas. I immediately start sizing my girl up to every other ballerina in sight. After getting her into her slippers, her father and I offer some words of encouragement. At this point, I am pretty much vomiting a little bit in my mouth. Ella is unphased. She just wants to get on with it and get her part. Her confidence is inspirational.

Mommy’s Little Snowflake

She locates a couple of competition her friends from class. They squeal at the sight of one another. All of us Moms breathe a sigh of relief that we are not sending our girls to the wolves alone. Then it happens. They call for the 5-7 age group. With a kiss for good luck and a smile, we send our girl off to her fate. I say a little prayer. We are all praying our little 5 year olds get to be mice ( standard part for that age group) in the Nutcracker.

Time passed s-l-o-w-l-y. I watch her ascend the stairs, my little girl, and I realize this is just one more of those firsts in life that I can not do for her. She is excited and a little nervous, but mostly excited. I am a half a breath away from falling to the ground and assuming the fetal position.

We wait for her to return. And wait. And wait some more. A half hour later, part of the group ascends the stairs. I hold my breath and wait for Ella to appear. One of her classmates comes down, her mother is standing, waiting with me. She is carrying a letter. She has the part! She is a MOUSE! Hurrah!
Uh oh! The mice have been cast. Where is my Ella? Oh, no my worst fears are coming true. She is not a mouse. All I could think was, she will be heart broken. Pull it together Debi. You have to be strong for your girl. I was going over all my pep talks in my head.  “It’s OK, next year we can try again”, ” You are a great dancer, there were a lot of little girls trying out and everyone deserves a chance”, “Mommy loves you, these people are stupid (LOL,I’d never say that..well, probably not)”. I shot my husband an “Oh Shit” look. He gave me the “breathe woman” look, as usual. I congratulated the other little girl. She was so proud.
Then ,15 minutes later, another group is released. I see Ella. She is holding an envelope. All I could think of was “how the hell am I going to explain why she’s not a mouse”. She walked over to me all smiles ( poor unsuspecting fool). I asked her how the audition went. She thought it went fabulous. She used to be taught by the director ( who was actually at audition selection) and she was just so exited to see Ms.Prima Ballerina. It’s really all that she cared about. Then I took the envelope out of her hands, I braced myself, and I opened it.Deep breath!
She wasn’t a mouse. She was a SNOWFLAKE! It’s a bigger, more advanced part and she gets to wear a white tutu , with a tiara and dance as snow falls onto stage. She was happy. Her Daddy and sister were proud and happy for her. I was relieved and so full of pride of my little girl that I thought I might bust at the seams. I texted every family member we have, on both sides, and told them to pencil in the weekend of December 10-12 to come and see our Ella in her stage debut as a snowflake. Her first performance as a ballerina will be attended by every family member who can make it. There will be a showering of flowers and love on our little girl at a diner in her honor. It will be a night she will not forget. And to think,

I almost vomited over a snowflake.

Ella, you are always Mommy’s Prima Bellarini. I am so proud of you. You will not be capable of understanding this feeling that I have until you have your own child. It is more than any pride than I have ever felt in myself. I love you! 9/11/10 First Audition date ever. We have our very own Snowflake this holiday season.

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