Macy’s Presents: Back to School Shopping Party!

macys.com/btseventsSchool is back in session and being the mom of a tween girl, I can tell you – we are both wanting to enjoy the latest fashions. We love Macy’s because they carry all the brands that we love – fashion, shoes, make-up … it’s all at Macy’s.

When I was contacted about supporting Macy’s Back to School Shopping Party, I was an instant “Yes!”. So what is this party that you are invited to for free? It’s a must-do! Celebrity vlogger, Lindsey Hughes will share her favorite styles for the new school year. What’s a great party without food? Enjoy sips and sweets, a DJ, mini manis, and a photobooth while you are there! Plus, score a free Lindsey Hughes signature totebag with any $35 purchase in mstylelab!*

The event closest to me is at Macy’s Memorial City – Houston, TX – 8/29, 2pm (Featuring Lindsay Hughes herself!). There are events all over the US. For more details on this and other events at your local Macy’s, log onto macys.com/btsevents.

Macy’s, the largest retail brand of Macy’s, Inc., delivers fashion and affordable luxury to customers at approximately 800 locations in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as to customers in the U.S. and more than 100 international destinations through its leading online store at macys.com. Via its stores, e-commerce site, mobile and social platforms, Macy’s offers distinctive assortments including the most desired family of exclusive and fashion brands for him, her and home. Macy’s is known for such epic events as Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks® and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, as well as spectacular fashion shows, culinary events, flower shows and celebrity appearances. Macy’s flagship stores including Herald Square in New York City, Union Square in San Francisco, State Street in Chicago, and Dadeland in Miami and South Coast Plaza in southern California are known internationally and are leading destinations for visitors. Building on a more than 150-year tradition, and with the collective support of customers, employees and Macy’s Foundation, Macy’s helps strengthen communities by supporting local and national charities giving more than $70 million each year to help make a difference in the lives of our customers.

Event subject to change or cancelation. *One per person. No refunds or exchanges. While supplies lasts.
This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Junior High Devotional – Week 1

colossians 1:17

 

Once a week, I write a short junior high devotional for my kids to meditate on throughout the week. It includes a scripture that they can hide in their heart as they navigate the school year.

School gets tough the older you get. Classes are demanding. Friends act weird. Situations are thrown at you. It’s a hard road, unfortunately.

The good part is that you are equipped to handle all things. Because you have a good nature and an honest spirit, you can make it through. Here’s why – Colossians 1:17.

God has gone before you in every situation and even when you feel like things are out of control, they really aren’t. God is holding it all together.

It’s tough because you might not always see God in your situation. You might feel like you need to step in and take it back from Him to make it better. Guess what? I still do that and I’ve been out of school for 30 years!

But, the truth is … He does. God has it – every single time.

So, what should you do when you feel that things are spiraling out of control? Pray. Pray specifically and honestly. God will hear you every time, I promise.

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17-18

Competition Dance: Expenses in Year 4

Well, it’s that time again in competition danceCompetition Dance. We’ve finished year four  and it’s time to break out the spreadsheet and total our expenses.

This year was very different for us. One – we stepped into the world of conventions and Two – we traveled far for nationals. Both of which really added to the bottom line!

Cutting to the chase – Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is there a way to do it cheaper & at a high level? I don’t think so (or not by much).

Here are our grand totals: (Click on the year to read a post on the specific expenses)
Year 1: $8,356.27 – 2 dances
Year 2: $13,565.75 – 5 dances
Year 3: $10,641.91 – 8 dances
Year 4: $18,905.29 – 9 dances

TUITION: The tuition at our studio is $300/month for unlimited classes. That is industry standard in our area. We pay tuition 10 months of the year on a company contract for a total of $3,000. We do have a deal where we can pay upfront prior to the start of the season and get a $500 discount. Most months we pay close to $1,000 in fees not including tuition, so it’s nice to have that out of the way!

CHOREOGRAPHY/CLEANING: We pay a choreography fee for every dance – group, solo, duet/trio. Group dances are $800 or $1000 and divided among the group; solos are $500; duets are $550; trio are $600. Piper competed in 1 solo, 1 duet, and 7 groups. Our total for the year was $3,600.

We typically clean solos once a week for 30 minutes. Our duet was an oddity because it was a junior and a teen dancing together. We didn’t make the schedule for a set weekly cleaning, so we cleaned substantially less than everyone else. Groups were cleaned roughly 2x a month, but what I love about our studio is that group choreo fees also cover the cleanings. It’s great to have that built in!

COSTUMES: We tried a little bit of everything with costumes this year. We did catalog. We did basics and embellished with tons of stones. We did custom. We did off the rack from Macy’s. Like I said, we tried it all. Honestly, they all looked great on stage. Some were more pricey than they should have been, but you live and learn, right? All in all, we spent just over $1,100 on costumes. (If you are in the market, I sell ours!)

Competition DanceCOMPETITION/CONVENTION FEES: This is a major chunk for us, so I’m going to split this into 2 parts: competition fees and convention fees.

(1) Competition fees: We have the option to go to competitions and/or conventions on our off weekends. We have our favorites and tend to go to the ones that are on our end of town. Solos typically run $100-110 and duets/trios/groups run between $55-65 each. You can hit up a competition fairly inexpensively in the grand scheme. We did 5 competitions last year – two as a full company taking every dance, and 3 on our own just taking our solo and twice the duet. Our competition fees came in at $1,400.

(2) Convention fees: Conventions are a different animal. First of all, you can’t just go and compete your solo – you must pay the workshop fee regardless. Our workshop fees ran between $225-295 per convention. Then, after that, you pay for dances that will compete. (Same pricing as competitions). As you can see, these weekends can turn expensive right off the bat sometimes going as high as $700-800 per weekend.

We did 5 conventions. One, we only competed our solo. At two, we only did groups. Another two, we took everything! Our convention fees topped out at $3,000 – more than double our competition fees.

The catch is that your dancer gets to also do the workshop. I’m not completely sold on conventions. But, that’s another post altogether!

p-n-jonneshaConventions can also get expensive if you stay at the hotel overnight. We did not stay the first convention and quickly decided that from then on we would. Piper dances in junior and teen groups which make for late competition nights on Friday and Saturday! Sometimes awards wouldn’t end until close to midnight. By the time we drove home, got settled in bed, and had to be back at the hotel for 8am workshop classes the next day – we met ourselves coming and going. We split a room with another dancer/mom which helped tremendously, but we still spent another $1,000 on hotel even with that!

PACKING UP: I am still absolutely in love with my Dream Duffel. They are so great and such a lifesaver. I now own a medium, large, and Carry-On duffel. (Carry-On duffel review coming soon.) They are well worth the money and their accessories are second-to-none.

TRAVEL: This was huge for us this year. We did a convention in Dallas and a convention nationals in Las Vegas. It was a lot for our family, I’ll admit. But, you have to be a bit savvy. We ended up staying at another hotel in Dallas that was close-by and where we had points. It was a bit of a pain to drive back and forth, but well worth it. Most families after the weekend was over stated that they spent nearly $1,000 on that weekend trip. (Hotel rooms often mean eating out all weekend. It’s much better if your hotel is near a mall or within walking distance of a variety of restaurants.)

With nationals being in Vegas, everyone was vying for flights. One would think that with gas prices dropping this spring – that flight prices would also drop. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Those that just went “mom and dancer” were getting a bargain at $350/seat. Our whole family went, so we used a combination of points and miles and called it our family vacation for the year!

The convention hotel was just a typical strip hotel. I searched and found a Hilton Vacation Club hotel that was connected by a mall (about a 5 minute walk) for the same price. The catch was that it had a kitchen! We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the room. (We packed a lunch for Piper and sent it with her each day.) That really helped the bottom line!

Using miles for flights and eating in the room helped costs tremendously. We did go to a show and called in favors from friends for other things. Overall, we finished nationals with a bill of $4,000 not including entry fees.

Next year, we are back to doing a competition nationals and for the first time, we are staying in state. I’ve noted in previous years that nationals has been a $3,000 trip for us. I anticipate that being close to the same this year as well, even with staying in state. Dancing in multiple age divisions means that Piper will dance nearly every day and at all times of the day, so we will most likely need to get a room (or rent a house) for the week. If that’s the case, the only real savings on nationals will be fuel, so I’m just dropping my budget for this week slightly!

Competition DanceSo, here we are, four years later, over $50,000 invested in a tiny little dancer. I can think of so many things that $50k could do for our family. But I also think about a statement Avery (my son, the most supportive brother ever) said right before we left for Vegas “Think of how different our life would be if Piper didn’t dance!”

It would be SOOOO different.

We’ve made incredible friends. We’ve traveled and had some great vacations/trips.

We’ve also seen a child start from scratch and hone a passion for an art. We’ve seen her form friendships that will be lifelong. We’ve seen a work-ethic develop that most adults don’t have. We’ve seen some beautiful performances from her, and we’ve seen her work her tail off to recover from upset.

… and still, to this day, Piper has never said “I don’t want to go to dance.” She aches to go every day and if she had her way would be there every time the door is unlocked!

The money is tight, and gets tighter by the minute it seems. But we’ll continue to make it work. Because, like Avery said, I can’t imagine our life without Piper dancing. And, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that she can dance for as long as her dream is alive.

Inside Out Movie Review

Inside Out

We were so lucky to see Pixar’s newest animated movie Inside Out last week. Our screening took place on June 9 – my son’s birthday. He’s 12, but don’t let that fool you – he’s a huge Pixar fan! All of us were itching to see this newest creation by our favorite film-making team.

As always, the short at the beginning – Lava – was amazing. Lava is the story of a volcano that is in the ocean all alone. It’s a heart-wrenching musical tribute to living life searching for love – knowing it’s close, but so far away. Bring a tissue and prepare to be moved.

Inside Out is an instant classic in my opinion. Is it as good as Toy Story, Nemo, or Cars? I’ll leave everyone to their own thoughts, but it is great. The character development is quick, the animation is impeccable, and the voicing is spot-on.

In this movie, the main characters are the emotions that live inside your head. We are led to believe that there are little “people” that control our joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. They interact with one another and through their interactions, we respond and thus create our memories. It’s such a fun concept and is truly unique!

What I love most is that this story, in true Pixar fashion, speaks to parents and children in different ways:

As a child, they can completely relate. Good days and bad days with parents and with friends. Moving across the country and the fear/feelings that brings. New school. New house. Even if kids haven’t faced those things personally – it’s presented in such a way that every child (and adult) can grab hold!

As a parent, it made me really reflect on what my child’s core memories are. If 5 memories that shape their life fell out of their mind right now, what would they be? But also, what is their sadness button? What makes them anxious? What brings them immediate joy?

This movie took me through all of my emotions – I laughed, I reflected, and yes – I cried. I loved it. It’s a great summer movie.

My recommendation – best for school-aged children. A definite go-see.

Happy 12th Birthday, Avery

acc-2Good morning, sweet boy! Happy Birthday!!! Today you are 12. My eyes fill with tears as my heart swells knowing that today we get to celebrate you and all you bring to our family.

Here are the 5 things that I love most about you!

1. Your spirit: You are such a compassionate, old soul. You love well and to the fullest – it is inspiring, actually. You hurt for others and carry their burdens. We need a million of you in this world.

2. Your sense of humor: The great thing about you getting older is that your sense of humor is developing as well. When you laugh, you laugh with your whole self. It cracks me up and is so infectious. You get dry humor like no other 12 year old I know. I love that you are the first to laugh at yourself … that trait will get you FAR in life!

3. Your pride: When you are really proud of yourself (as you should be so often), you have this little grin that you do. It’s probably something that very few people notice and I love that too. Often I see it when our eyes meet. It’s my favorite thing.

acc-14. Your brotherly love: I would like to think that I’m your sister’s biggest fan, but I can honestly say that you have me beat. You are so proud when she does well, and you are so upset when things don’t go her way. I wish every sister could experience what Piper has had her entire life in you. She is so lucky!

5. Your selflessness: You are a giver. I find myself being very careful these days. You will always make sure others have before yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s dessert or school supplies! You are constantly saying “No, no — you can take it. I’ll get something else.”

Let’s face it, I could write 1,000 things that I love about you. It’s an endless list. In my lifetime, there’s nothing that I’ve loved more than being a mom. You have made that job exceptionally easy. Are you perfect, no. But, goodness knows that I’m not either. You, however, have made navigating the road far less rocky than others that I’ve seen. I’m so thankful and grateful for God putting you with me. You, Avery Click, are a blessing far greater than anything that I deserve.

Happy Birthday, Avery C.
Your mom

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

Good-bye to Butch

butch-christmasDear Butch,

Our lives changed on October 8, 2010 when you entered our family. You were supposed to be a dog for the kids. You were the cure to their (mostly Avery’s) endless begging. We thought we were rescuing you, but I think you did as much for us.

You have been such a faithful and awesome dog. You were perfect for our family, because your two favorite things to do are eat and sleep. Just like us! You were always good for a cuddle, especially if we were wrapped in the horse blanket.

I’ll miss you running to the door and your tail nearly wagging off because you were so excited to see me. I’ll miss you running to the kitchen when you hear the cheese tray open in the refrigerator. Or, how you turn flips in the air when you realize that you get to have canned dog food. I’ll miss you positioning yourself right in front of the vent when you ride in the car and way you bark at the doorbell commercial on HGTV. I’ll think of you every time I see your thundercoat and when I find a random tennis ball that you’ve scattered and hidden in the house.Every time I get out of the shower and you aren’t laying on the mat, I’ll be sad. And, although I’ve always complained about it, I’ll miss getting up with you in the night when you have to go to the potty. I’ll never know why you wouldn’t let anyone but me take you outside in the middle of the night, but I’m honored you thought so much of me! :)

butch-blanketI truly believe that God matched you with us. I’m so grateful that we got to be your family. I’m so sorry that your cancer got the best of you. Knowing that you have been in pain this past week has weighed so heavily on us. As much as I’d love to buy time for you to stay here, I can’t bare to imagine what you are enduring. We’ve prayed for God to help us not be selfish in our decisions regarding when it was your time to go, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Sweet baby Butch, you will hold a piece of my heart forever. We will miss you in a big and mighty way. Can we make a deal? When I get to heaven, will you run to the pearly gates to greet me? With all the fanfare you’ve given me the past five years everytime I’ve arrived home from work, I can’t imagine a better “welcome wagon” into heaven!

I love you … we all do,
Stephanie, Don, Avery and Piper

Solo Performance Day

Piper Click - solo dancerTo my beautiful dancer on your solo performance day:

Performing a solo is quite the task. Whether you are 5 or 18, the act of taking the stage on your own is brave beyond compare. Without the security of your friends dancing alongside of you, it’s your job to bring music to life. The creation of art lies entirely on you.

Here’s what I want you to know –

Judging is not a perfect process. But, competition offers us the gift of learning to win gracefully and lose gracefully. Every time you compete you get to practice one of these skills, and both of them will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Never be intimidated by another good dancer. Surrounding yourself with great performers will keep you pushing forward. You always need someone to look up to and admire. We are so lucky to live in an area where there are good dancers on every corner. This is a blessing!

If you see someone that dances well, tell them. If you love their song, their costume, their choreography … let them know. It’s one thing when an adult gives you a compliment, but it means much more coming from a peer.

Piper Click - dance soloFinally, and most important … Your worth as dancer is not summed up by any award that is given. The awards are nice and wonderful and great on a resume, but more times than not – the dancer that moved the audience to tears isn’t the one that’s standing in the Top 10. When you leave the venue tonight, remember that you are still as phenomenal of a dancer as when you walked in hours before. No award changes that.

Enjoy every moment you are on stage. You’ve worked so hard … I’m already bursting with pride over you and you haven’t danced a single step.

I love you!
Mom

Amaluna Ticket Giveaway – Houston

Amaluna in Houston - StephanieClick.comIt’s no secret that our family is rooted deep in the arts community. I’m proud that we have managed to spread the wealth and go deep in music, dance, and the theater. Personally, I love stage shows, but I have always been captivated by the theatrical genius of the Cirque du Soleil. My first opportunity to see a live performance was KA which was amazing! Since then, I’ve been completely hooked on seeing all the Cirque themes that I possibly can.

One of the benefits of living in a major city is that these shows frequently (and most often) stop for an extended stay. Such is the case with Amaluna coming to Houston this month!

Amaluna invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next.

In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before they can achieve mutual trust, faith and harmony.

Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to “mother” in many languages, and luna, which means “moon”; a symbol of femininity that evokes both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protecAmaluna in Houston - StephanieClick.comtor of the planet. Amaluna is also the name of the mysterious island where this magical story unfolds.

For the first time in Cirque du Soleil’s history, Amaluna features a cast that comprises 70% women, with a 100% female band. “Amaluna is a tribute to the work and voice of women”, explains Director of Creation Fernand Rainville. “The show is a reflection on balance from a women’s perspective”, he adds. Director Diane Paulus, winner of a 2013 Tony Award (Pippin) and recently named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2014, says: “I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show. I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.” Paulus drew from a series of classical influences when creating the concept of the show; including tales from Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Amaluna - StephanieClick.comAside from the artistry and the brilliant concepts of the Cirque shows, I absolutely love the costuming and the set design. In Amaluna, there are over 130 costumes made up of nearly 800 different items. The white dress worn by the artist performing the Peacock Dance comprises a bustier and a skirt. The bustier is made of stretch nylon tulle covered with white beaded lace and Swarovski crystals. The skirt alone is made of 65 yards of white non-stretch nylon tulle covered with lace and crystals. The dress has 6,500 Swarovski crystals (my dance mom heart just exploded) and 325 silver lace additions! The peacock costumes are made up of 14 layers of heat-pleated materials trimmed in leather and stretch metallic fabric. The tails open out to a fan of 8 feet with hydraulic pistons that compensate for their weight.

Not to be outdone, the set is just as impressive! The carousel used is 25 feet in diameter and weighs 6,000 pounds. The grid weighs 8,600 pounds and includes 3 acrobatic winches, each able to lift loads up to 400 pounds at 10 feet per second! The acrobatic winch in the center of the carousel can lift up to 1,000 pounds at 10 feet per second. That is unreal to me!!! Finally, the water bowl – which seems similar to the one used in Zumanity – is 5’5″ tall, 7’3″ in diameter, and weighs 5,500 pounds when filled with water.

Watch the trailer for Amaluna:

I’m so so excited to see this show! Amaluna will land in Houston and open on February 12 and run until March 8 at the Sam Houston Race Track. I’m honored to have been selected to give away 4 tickets to the show on Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00pm. I’ve chosen to give my tickets in sets of 2 … so I can help 2 sets of people see this great show!

Entering is easy using the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The others of you that might not win and still wish to attend can purchase tickets here. VIP, Behind the Scenes, Family Packs, Group offers … they can all be found online. Be sure to check them out or click the image below. You don’t want to miss this great show!

 

AMA-Ph3-300x250_V1

Cancer: Our Dog is Dying

Butch - Yorkie - Cancer DogOur dog is dying of cancer. It wrenches my inner-most soul to even admit that I know his days are numbered. A dog that I love more than most people. The dog that wasn’t meant to attach to me has been diagnosed with cancer, and his days are numbered. And, they are few.

My husband has joked to people that the healing I’ve sought for Butch, our beloved Yorkie, is far beyond what I would seek for him. I’ve spent hours researching all of our options for treatment and for comfort. Death is a horrible thing for any living creature, big or small.

Butch came to us nearly 5 years ago. Upon adopting him, we found out that he was positive for heartworms. The cost of treatment put us out of our comfort zone for spending. But, as we commented several times, we loved him … and we needed to save him. I can’t imagine if we had decided differently. The love of this dog (who, believe me, is sometimes also the biggest pest) has made a lasting mark on our family and on the memories of my two kids.

Butch has been THE perfect dog for our family. His personality is so low-key. He loves to sleep, and is content to do whatever. A ride in the car is like winning the lottery and a piece of cheese to snack on will make his life content for months.

Three weeks ago, we found out that Butch had a non-operable, cancerous tumor growing in the roof of his mouth. It is growing rapidly and goes from his palette to behind his eye. It is very aggressive and as we are seeing now, is beginning to deform the shape of his jaw and causes his left eye to slightly bulge.

A veterinary dental specialist is the one who initially advised us on Butch’s condition, and from there we sought the advice of a veterinary oncologist. She was able to give us several options: radiation – which would prolong his life by 6 months at best, be painful to the dog, require him to be hospitalized 5 days a week for weeks at a time, and cost $6,000 out of pocket; chemotherapy – which could get rid of the tumor entirely at best, but no guarantees, can have severe side-effects, could stay at home for treatment, and costs $200-300/month out of pocket for as long as we chose to do it; or we do nothing – and he has about 60 days to live.

Butch - Yorkie - Cancer DogWe chose to do chemo. So far, Butch has taken 3 doses of the 8 that we purchased. He has had no adverse side effects, although we can tell that he’s in some pain. Dogs that are in pain get very quiet and lose stamina. Butch no longer jumps on the recliner and often won’t stand on his two hind feet in excitement for cheese. We’re taking these signs to heart and offering him lots of tender love. We are heavy on making eye contact with him and speaking to him about how much we love him, and offering soft, gentle petting and cuddles.

We have also been using DoTerra Frankincense. Almost immediately, we noticed the bulging in his eye reduce. Frankincense is known to have cancer-curing properties and we figured we had nothing to lose in trying it. We’ve put a few drops on cheese and he’s never turned his nose to it!

Another visit to the veterinary oncologist will come in about 10 days. I’m assuming that she will do another scan to see if there is any shrinking of the tumor. At that point, I’m sure that we will access our course of action. As a family, we decided early on that we would not be selfish. Our ultimate goal was to make sure that Butch was as comfortable and as pain free as he could be. None of us want to speak of having to put him down, but even more than that – we don’t want to have Butch live in pain.

So, we pray and we will continue to pray for the healing of our Butch, and for our unselfishness in the decisions that are yet for us to make … now or in the future!

1 Timothy 4:4 “For everything God created is good, for it is sanctified by God’s word and prayer.”