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Nutcracker

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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OxiClean, laundry

The world is freaking out because the U.S. government has shutdown. But haven’t we known for some time that our government has become a petulant child and it was only a matter of time before they threw a fucking tantrum in the middle of the grocery store? That’s what this is. While we are all busy paying attention to this tantrum, more important things are going unnoticed and ignored but that is not my BIG concern today. I’ve got my own shit to obsess about. You know, mom shit that wouldn’t matter to anyone else in the world but it sticks in our crawl and drives us insane? Yeah, that!

A few weeks ago my daughters auditioned for the Nutcracker and I am happy to report have both been cast in this year’s production. Bella will be an ethereal angel and Gabs will be a sweet little parrot. Both are great parts in the second act. Both girls are excited. They’re ecstatic. Except for this one thing that is literally keeping me awake at night.

This will be Bella’s 4th year in the production and Gabi’s first. Gabi is thrilled to be a parrot because her favorite part of the Nutcracker is the Arabian coffee dance. She is over the moon, which is why writing this post makes me feel like a complete asshole. There will be whining because this is my safe place. Please don’t judge and if whining will make you think less of me, run away now. You’ve been warned.

I scanned the cast sheets and I saw my daughters’ parts. Thrilled! I know if you are not a parent of a child who plays a competitive sport, cheers or dances, right about now you are thinking, “Get a life, lady!” But if you are a parent like me, you understand that our child’s success, to see their little faces light up, is magical. It makes your heart feel like it’s going to burst with pride.

I get nervous and sick when they audition and I am over the moon for them when they achieve something they worked for. Only when my eyes neared the top of the page, there it was, in black and white… Almond Cast. Which is like being 1st runner up. Peanut cast is the opening night cast. Every year for the past 3 years my daughter has been a Peanut. Not this year.

Why should I care? I probably shouldn’t but maybe it’s the PMS or turning 41 or the dreary days we’ve been having but my brain won’t stop obsessing over this damn nut. My girls are thrilled. I fake it. I hate faking it. Never letting on what’s really going on in this box of crazy, I call my mind. But, inside, I am screaming What.the.fuck? Why God, why?

Here are the facts: my daughters have an extra year of dance on all the dancers at their level because they started at 3 instead of 4. My girls are dedicated and disciplined. They take the recommended amount of classes and I have the outrageous tuition to prove it. We are involved and volunteer backstage. All of our family comes in town to see the production. Every year, we’re peanut cast and this year…fucking Almonds. It’s like getting chosen last in dodge ball. I mean it’s not like something has happened to suddenly make my kids suck from last year. Luckily, my girls don’t know the difference and I will never tell them.

I’m keeping the mommy crazy in check. But I want to know why? I know the answer that they will give me; the casts are the same; apples and oranges. But this isn’t my first Nutcracker and we all know, it is unspoken, but the peanut cast is opening night and last curtain not the almonds. It’s like bizarro world, Jerry.

The girls will dance their parts and never know that 2013 was the year that their mom nearly went bat shit crazy over a cast list. We will still volunteer backstage and our family will still come to see the girls because I’m not telling anyone the difference between the fucking almond and peanut. And on their opening night, I will sit still in my seat next to my husband as our babies take the stage holding back the tears. Fucking pride always makes me bawl like a baby. When they are done, I will love them and praise them just like I would if they were in the peanut cast because no matter what cast they are in, they will have earned their part, rehearsed for months and taken the stage in front of hundreds of people. That is worth praising.

Tell me that I am not crazy. Tell me that I am not becoming a fucking bat shit crazy dance mom. Tell me that you have felt this sort of feeling before. I just want my girls to be the best at whatever they do but as long as they are happy, I will smile and pretend to be as well because when it really comes down to it, as long as they are happy, I am happy.

Bat shit crazy, signing off.

P.S. Don’t think the fact that I am acting like a petulant child is lost on me. I see the irony, only I don’t care. I’m entitled to my tantrum just as much as the U.S. government is, right?

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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.

tinydancer13

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.

sistersb

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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mommy moment monday, my girls, daughters. motherhood

Mommy Moment Monday

Mommy Moment Monday~There are these moments in motherhood where I stand in awe of these little people that I helped to bring into the world. They have done things that I have never done. Things that I will never do and that makes me stop and catch my breath. The moments when I cannot believe that I get to be a part of the tapestry of their lives. I know all mother’s feel this way but I am always gently reminded of this when I see my daughters do something for the first time, especially at this time of the year, being the raging christian that I am. This time of the year holds a special place in my heart.

This past weekend my Bella debuted in her third Nutcracker performance. This is amazing to me that she can be only 7 and have performed live on stage in this huge (named one of the top 5 in the country by Forbes magazine) production and in front of sold out crowds. I get stage fright so the fact that they can do this, blows me away and leaves me in the audience so emotional that I am usually moved to tears by my pride in their courage. I suppose it is the knowledge that with every new venture, they are growing up and I am letting go, even in this minimal way.

Bella has always been my child that sucks it up, no matter how afraid she may be of a new situation. She just does it. She is a lot like me in this way. We are the sort who were born wearing our big girl panties. I guess it may have something to do with being the firstborn.

mommy moment monday, my girls, daughters. motherhood

Mommy Moment caught on camera

She had her first reconciliation at 10:30 that morning, that was following performances the 2 nights previous and a grueling rehearsal schedule all that week. She never complained. She had a cold and pink eye in the past two weeks but she sucked it up. On Saturday, I could see she was a little trepidatious. I tried to ease her into reconciliation. I assured her that she would do fine and it would be painless. Unfortunately, she had to go first because she was due at the theater that morning for call time for her matinee performance. She sucked it up and gave the longest first confession that I have ever seen, no doubt throwing her father and I under the bus. It all ended with absolution and a fist pump from what I can only describe as the coolest priest ever. I sat there and watched, because she did a face-to-face confession out in the open, as her father snapped undercover photos on his iPhone because I begged him to. I was moved. She is getting so big and I am so proud of her. I held back the tears and when I saw that her trepidation was exchanged for absolution and a huge smile, my heart exploded.

But there was no time for congratulatory lingering. She had to be at the theater and we had to get ready to attend the matinee. The opening weekend performances are particularly moving because they are accompanied by the Philharmonic and a live chorus. For me, it is always amazing to see my baby on stage because I know of the process that she went through to get there; 5 years of dance classes, auditioning and a grueling rehearsal schedule. She made that choice and I could not be prouder.I was particularly excited to be going to see it with my father, who has never seen my daughter perform.

I excitedly explained the premise to my parents and told them to watch for my girl to enter stage right and then dance her way to stage left. Before we dropped Bella off at the green room that morning, I asked her to make it extra special for me. I know this sounds crazy but if you have a daughter who dances ( especially one who has a particular shade of blondish brown hair) you know that under lights and in their costumes, it is easy to get small children mixed up.

mommy moment monday, motherhood, nutcracker, ballet

Mommy Moment by Nutcracker Mice

When it came her time on stage during the Battle scene, I saw her immediately and then I saw her look for me( even though I know she can’t see anything past the house lights). My heart was swelling so big that I began to tear up, for the second time that day.  I was choked up and tears about to come gushing out when I noticed what she was doing. She was over animating and smiling harder than I had ever seen and dancing like it was her last show ever, and I knew it was for me and I audibly laughed out loud as my tears escaped. This feeling of pride that I feel for my girls is directly proportional with the love I feel for them. In some small part, I did that.

My girls are way more amazing than I could have ever imagined and they fill my life with more joy and meaning than I ever knew possible. I am proud to be their mother and blessed to be able to share their lives with them.

mommy moment, daughters, nutcracker, motherhood

Mommy Moment with my Girl

 

What was your mommy moment this week?



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Daughter of Mine~ My children are, as they are for most moms, the most important things in my life. I don’t say this as a metaphor, or say it for effect, I am not trying to impress anyone nor did I ever know what hold my children would take on my heart. How could I know that they would reside within me forever; in my womb for but a mere 10 months but in my heart, for all eternity. I had children as do most people as an expression of my love with my husband. I found a man that I loved so much that it could fill a room and I wanted nothing more than to have as much of him as I could in the world.  There was nothing I could imagine to be greater than two people who genuinely and completely loved one another, bringing into the world tiny humans that they could share that love with, that they could add to the world to make it that much better of a place. Yet, still I had no idea how these tiny humans would fill my life, my time, my space and my heart.

My Daughter; My Heart

Still there are some days when I feel the effect of my cup runneth over more than others. Ella was in her 2nd Nutcracker this year and, in theory, I thought it would be a little less overwhelming being that we have done it once already. But it wasn’t. We’ve spent the last  month prepping for the production and the last two weekends my daughter has taken the stage as a toy soldier. I could not be prouder of my little ballerina. Last year, she was my perfect little snowflake; a vision of beauty in tulle . She was five and the maturity and enthusiasm with which she commanded her audience was something to behold. Every performance left me with a lump in my throat as well as my heart. I took a million pictures because whenever I wasn’t in the audience, I was sure to be found backstage chaperoning and doing hair for the tiniest of ballerinas. It went by in a flash, much like her fleeting childhood, and I wanted to drink it all in. I didn’t want to miss a second.

This year was a bit different. We are in a new town, a new ballet and Ella had a new part. A part that she was not initially overjoyed to have been chosen to dance. This year she was a toy soldier. Last year was tulle and tiaras, 15 tiny snowflakes cascading across the stage as snow fell and filled the air with the most ethereal beauty. This year was admiral soldier ware, cannons, swords and a battle to the death. Ella is very girly and initially wanted no piece of this part but then she realized that she not only had the privilege of shooting the cannon ( in all its pyrotechnic glory)  but she got to hand the sword to the Nutcracker prince in the battle scene. The very sword that would ultimately defeat the arch nemesis of our heroine Clara, the Mouse King. This piqued her interest because as any Mommy of a ballerina knows, every little girl wants to grow up to be Clara. Being in close proximity to the current Clara is like walking hand in hand with a princess; it is being in the presence of tiny ballerina greatness.

My Daughter; My Soul

I sat, holding my breath, on opening night waiting for my daughter to take the stage. The orchestra swelled Tchaikovsky and my heart almost burst with pride. Chaos broke out on the stage as the battle scene began and the principals took the stage. My mouth was dry, my eyes were moist and then I saw her..amidst all the chaos, my little soldier marching out from stage right. At that  moment, the place could have caught on fire. All I could see, through my teary blurred vision, was my little soldier. That same familiar lump in my heart returned and I could not talk or breathe. I could only admire her and think to myself, I am so lucky to be a part of this little girl’s story. My heart burst right there in seat 17. Every move she made, every breath she took, every smile and glance; I could see that she was happy. She was magical and beautiful. I hope to see all of her dreams come true in my lifetime. I watched as she exited stage left and thought to myself, one day I may be lucky enough to have my heart bursts as she dances the Pas de Deux and the cymbals crash. But for the life of me, I can’t imagine that I could ever be any prouder of her than I was at the very moment she took the stage as a little toy soldier.

The production wrapped this afternoon and our holiday celebration has officially started. Sorry, if it seems that I’ve been MIA lately but it’s time consuming work loving on children in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed to, especially when my heart’s been bursting with love. I am blessed.

Daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.  ~Author Unknown

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I fully realize this picture is fuzzy but there is something ethereal about & it is very reminiscent of how the weekend felt.

The house lights went down & I was overcome with emotion.I sat there, my 3 year old to my right and her father on the other side of her.We held our breaths.Tchaikovsky started to swell from the orchestra pit and my heart began to swell with pride, as my eyes swelled with tears in anticipation of my little girl’s debut performance on the stage as a ballerina.

We know the story of the Nutcracker well.We’ve been reading it to Bella since she was 3, the year that she started taking ballet.It is a big part of our holiday tradition.This year was different, this year it wasn’t just about sitting in the audience and basking in the holiday spirit .This year was momentous.This year, the Nutcracker was one of my Bella’s milestones; like first steps, first words, first day of school. Like so many before it and so many that are yet to come, it is that moment that parents find themselves reluctantly and pridefully letting go…just a little, just enough to give you a great big lump in your heart.

So, there I sat with my great big giant lump in my heart, trying to hold it together.Waiting, hoping, not breathing in anticipation of the end of the first act;the moment that my little snowflake would enter stage left. Then it happened, there she was with her white leotard and tutu, wrapped in the glow of the stage light, floating gracefully above the floor like a vision in tulle loveliness. I realize that everyone else was focusing their attentions on the “big” snowflakes ( the more seasoned ballerinas) but my every attention was devoted solely to my little snowflake.Every plies, leap, pirouette that she did, I watched her face to see that she was enjoying every moment of it.After all, isn’t that what we live for..those moments of sheer happiness in our child’s face. The 5 minutes that she was on stage felt like a lifetime, as I sat there holding my breath and trying to suppress the lump in my heart. Then, it was over. Four months of rehearsals, weeks of anticipation, countless dollars and a few moments of graceful beauty under falling snow; priceless!

We met her backstage with roses, gifts, and enough praise to last her a lifetime but no words could amply convey the pride I felt in my heart. Family and friends came from all over to see our little girl take the stage.I just tried not to cry…too much.I held it together pretty well until the ride home from the theater and then the lump in my heart gave way and burst, overflowing and escaping through my eyes. There I sat, silently, ugly crying feeling the pride and momentum of what had just transpired.The Big Guy sat next to me, pretending not to notice how swept away I was by this occasion. He’s learned after 13 years to just be, any interaction or conversation can induce hysterics;hyperventilating, noisy, body shaking ugly crying.

It was a moment she will never forget and neither will the Big Guy and I. It was the first moment our little girl became a real ballerina. It is emblazoned in my mind like the image on my digital camera with the waltz of the snowflakes accompanying it on a never ending loop. What is a moment of overwhelming pride that you have felt for your child? How did you handle the lump in your heart?

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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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