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!
I 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
To 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.
Finally, 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.
It’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 protector 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.
Aside 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!
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!
Our 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.
We 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.”
I’ve dropped you in the depths of fire … no, not really. That’s how it seems to me. In reality, I’ve dropped you in the den of all things cool. No more walking you inside, or pictures of you sitting at your desk on the first day. Amazingly, I did fine with it all, but there are some things that I want you to remember today and for the next three years.
Your school is huge and over-crowded. Every personality and race and religion is represented. Every kid there is unique – yourself included. Guess what? That’s great. You are at such an advantage. I didn’t see this kind of diversity until college. Treat it as a gift and get to know people from all walks of life. Lots of things are expected, yet some things are taboo in different cultures. Learn from your friends and be respectful of those cultural differences when you are with them. It will be appreciated!
You are awesome. Some will love you and some will probably not. That’s ok, too. Stay true to yourself. Don’t change to fit in. Find friends that will embrace you for who you are. Those friends are the ones that will be your TRUE friends. Hang tight onto them!
Speaking of friends, grab as many as you can. But, realize that only a few will probably become close. Guard yourself against those that talk bad about others. Chances are good that they’ll talk bad about you too. Be nice, but make a mental note. Never, ever get caught up and speak negative of anyone. You don’t want that to happen to you, so honor that rule for others.
Try new things. Clubs, social activities, whatever you want. Try it and see how you like it. You might surprise yourself.
Never give up something you love just to fit in. You love soccer. I’m thinking you’ll love band. If those things suddenly turn “uncool,” stay the course. It doesn’t matter what others think. I know that’s hard to swallow right now, but trust me – if you love it, stay all in. Few people find something that they are truly passionate about. Don’t sell yourself short to be cool in the eyes of another teen. You’ll have lots of regret.
Don’t ever be ashamed of being smart. Not all of us got the academic gene, but you did. You have an amazing gift and so much potential. Use every ounce of what you have. But, know that if you truly do your best and fall short, that’s ok too. Dust yourself off and get back up.
Relationships will begin to form all around you. Couples, and boyfriend/girlfriends, and romance everywhere. Go with the flow. You’ve had such awesome “girl (space) friends” throughout school … those relationships are valuable. When you are friends with someone first, you learn so much more about them. You’ve got the rest of your life to be in a relationship. I’m thankful that you have no interest now.
Ask questions! Teachers can’t help you if you are too embarrassed to ask. You are lucky to live in the digital age. If you can’t bring yourself to raise your hand, drop them an email. But, ASK! Your schedule is demanding and full. Don’t let your shy spirit get in the way.
More than anything else, remember that I love you. You have a pure and honest soul. But, you are going to screw up and make mistakes and disappoint yourself. In the next moment, you will have huge gains and highlights and triumphs. All of this is just a part of being in junior high. I will love you through all of your highs and lows. Regardless. I promise.
My body is aching. I feel like I’ve run 8 miles without training. Everything hurts.
In fact, everything hurts so bad that I got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and gasped when I put my feet on the floor.
Two Tylenols later, I feel asleep again … making sure that I didn’t move an inch the rest of the night.
Every summer, my kids visit grandparents for several weeks. While they are gone, I go through all of their old clothes, toys, clutter so that they return to a nice organized space. I’m not doing this to belittle their ability to clean their own rooms. I’m doing this as a way to purge all the toys that they never play with, but if asked – it’s their absolute favorite. If toys/clothes/junk leaves while they are gone — they never miss it.
This year, the kids asked if I could rearrange their rooms, too. They have been stuck in the same mode for some time, so I was glad to honor that request.
What I didn’t bank on was that during the final 4 days of their vacation, I would be home alone. But, realistically, we’re talking about twin beds in each room, a nightstand, and desk (extra dresser in Piper’s room). Could it be that hard?
I tried to move the nightstand in Avery’s room and realized that I was in for more than I bargained for.
I went to Wal-Mart (ugh) for an item and decided I should look in the “As Seen on TV” aisle for those slippery furniture moving pads. I couldn’t remember for the life of me what they were called. I could only remember that in the commercial a slim looking gal was moving a huge armoire with one hand
I finally found them, and for the record – they are in the hardware section, not the “As Seen on TV” area. There was quite a selection, but I opted for the 12 pack with sliding pads that were about 3″ in diameter. I paid $12 for the pack of Super Sliders. If you know me, I don’t spend $12 on much of anything, so I was desperate! But, I figured – it was Wal-Mart, so if they didn’t work – I’d return them.
Avery has a train table in his room. “Has” is short for “going on Craigslist tonight.” Santa had it custom-made and it weighs 900 lbs. Maybe more. I figured I would start by trying the Super Sliders out on that piece since it’s the heaviest thing in the room.
I picked up each corner of the train table and slid a circular disc underneath. I finished with the fourth leg and gave the table a forceful push … and nearly shot it right out the door!
I could not believe how awesome these discs were and never dreamed they would work so well.
The only hard part – in all truth – was the bed. It’s just heavy in general. It was a chore to pick up the corner enough to slide a disc under. (We’re talking 1.5″ and you’re done.) I finally figured out a method: put my foot on the disc, lift the furniture corner with both hands, kick the disc under the corner!
Avery’s bed has drawers underneath so it’s solid to the ground all the way around. For that, I used a disc on all 4 corners and one on each side in the middle. I didn’t even empty the drawers to move it. It slid on that carpet like grease.
I should tell you here that there are Super Sliders for hardwood/tile, Super Sliders for carpet, and the socks if you need both hardwood/tile AND carpet. Make sure you buy accordingly!
Is this a sponsored post? Nope. This was just a find that changed my life. I am someone who loves change and I would rearrange the furniture every month if Don would let me. Now, I can just take it upon myself! Yes!!!
Tax-free weekend in Texas for 2014 is August 8-10. This is a great time to stock up on items, specifically higher priced items.
But, here’s the fine print – you can only be tax-free on an item that is less than $100. So, for example, if you buy a pair of tennis shoes that are $103 – you will pay tax on all $103. If you bought a pair of shoes that were $99 – they are tax-free.
With backpacks, it has to be a traditional backpack that can be worn on your back. If you choose a backpack with wheels – it also has to have the straps for the back. It can’t be considered a briefcase or a computer bag.
We all know that school supplies make the list, but what are some of the other items?
The items on this list must be priced under $100 to qualify, so keep that in mind.
Diapers (cloth or disposible)
Children’s novelty costumes
Leotards and tights
For a list of all things exempt, check out this great link by the Texas Comptroller.
The biggest change for us was a change in studios. Many things led to our decision, but it was the right move for us on a lot of levels. And, now, one year later – oh my stars, we made the right move!
So, money … where are we now, what’s the same and what’s changed. First of all, I still track every penny. With that said, I can accurately account for how things have changed from year to year.
Our grand totals each year:
Year 1: $8,356.27 – 2 dances Year 2: $13,565.75 – 5 dances
Year 3: $10,641.91 – 8 dances
For ease of comparison, I’ll call the studio we were at for years 1and 2, Studio A. Our studio for year 3 will be Studio B.
TUITION: This is a little different at our Studio B. Tuition covers your weekly technique classes. At Studio A, it covered your weekly technique classes and your mandatory competition dance choreography and cleanings. (So, basically, in year 1- we got classes, plus two dance choreography/cleanings in our $260/month. In year 2 – we got classes, plus three dance choreography/cleanings in our $260month.)
At Studio B, our monthly tuition was $275/month. (That is raising to $300/month this coming year.) Piper took 11 classes each week and our tuition only covered those technique classes.
However, we are also offered the option of paying for the entire year in advance. We get a small discount when we take advantage of the offer. For our family, it’s a huge outpour of funds all at once, but it’s $300/month that we know is already paid. That comes in really handy when Christmas comes around, or an unexpected financial emergency arises.
Total for tuition (Year 2) = $2,717.50 Total for tuition (Year 3) = $2,500
CHOREOGRAPHY/CLEANING: The last time I wrote about this topic, we were only doing our mandatory dances. At Studio A, you paid a choreography fee for any “extra” dance – solo, group, duo/trio, etc. For example, we paid $350 for solo choreography, $134 for trio choreography, and $110 for a tap small group with 5 girls.
At Studio B, we pay a choreography fee for every dance. It’s nice for a few reasons. We are given the cost of each dance – a solo is $450, a duet is $550, small groups are $800, large groups are $1,000. The cost is split between the dancers in each group. For example, Piper could be cast in a group with 4 girls and our cost would be $200 for that number. But she could also be cast in a small group with 9 girls and it would be $88.89.
Given those costs and the odds of what a “worst case scenario” could be, we are able to tell the director how many solos, duo/trios, groups we (1) think our daughter can handle and (2) our wallet can handle.
At Studio A, for the dances that required a choreography fee, it was truly just that – choreography only. From there, you paid a “cleaning fee” every time that dance was cleaned ($35/half hour, $70/hour). This meant that I was constantly running into the studio waving cash … and needed to have odd increments of bills available at all times. It was C-R-A-Z-Y. Especially for someone (me) who HATES carrying cash.
At Studio B, the cleaning fees for all group dances are included in the choreography cost. Thank you, Jesus! (I mean that literally.) It also means that although things are expensive on the front end, once it’s paid – it’s paid.
Total for choreography/cleaning (Year 2) = $280 (one dance) Total for choreography/cleaning (Year 3) = $680 (six dances)
SOLO/DUETS/TRIOS: This is another area that we hadn’t explored last time. In Year 2, we started with a solo and during spring break added a trio, so those costs might be a bit skewed. For Year 3, we did a solo and trio again.
Both Studio A and B do this the same way. You pay a choreography fee and then you pay for each cleaning separately. I think that’s industry standard.
These are the take aways that I have about a solo: A solo is worth every penny. The growth that comes from one-on-one time with your teacher is golden.
There are many kids that do multiple solos. For us, financially, we would rather Piper be in more group dances than add another solo. When she’s older and if she still thinks that this is what she wants to REALLY do as a career, we’ll add another solo. But, for now, our choice is one solo and more groups.
Total for solo/cleanings (Year 2) = $1,155 Total for trio/cleanings (Year 2) = $333 (1/2 season)
Total for solo/cleanings (Year 3) = $1,380 Total for trio/cleanings (Year 3) = $478
COSTUMES: I now consider myself a costume expert. We’ve done catalog and custom-made, and semi-homemade (catalog, then alter it to look like something else!). I’ve also learned that a lot of what happens with a costume depends on your studio and what they consider standard.
At Studio A, more was better. And more, and more. I love me some bling, but it was a lot! And many times the additions to the costume cost more than the basic costume.
At Studio B, we have some gorgeous costumes, too. But, there was a bit more of a “Let’s try it like this … if we see it needs more, then we’ll add more. But, let’s not just do it because we can.” And, guess what? Many times, costumes were gorgeous “as is”. It made a difference in the bottom line.
My advice – learn to stone. Order stones wholesale. Both of these things will save you LOADS of money. And, some of the best Dance Mom moments I’ve had have come over a costume and a gross of crystals!
Total for costumes (Year 2) = $835.73 – 6 costumes Total for costumes (Year 3) = $674.44 – 8 costumes
COMPETITION FEES: Last time, I wrote about how surprised I was when the time came to pay fees for competitions. It was significantly more than I ever imagined. Well, that was with two dances … so imagine how numb I am now!
To be honest, groups aren’t much (in the grand scheme). They run $35-45 on average. Duo/trios will run approximately $60. Solos are about $100.
The upside is that there is prize money. Whoo hooo! This is slightly different for each competition and sometimes depends on the number of entries in a category. It’s also an opportunity for studios to handle this in different ways.
Studio A – solo – the money is applied to your account; duo/trio/groups – the money is split and applied to your account.
Studio B – solo – the money is applied to your account; duo/trio – the money is split and applied to your account; groups – the money goes to the studio.
Total for competitions (Year 2) = $1,262.82 (5 dances) Total for competitions (Year 3) = $1,601.68 (8 dances)
CONVENTIONS: When I write you this time next year, I will be an expert in this field. Our studio is doing all conventions next year with the exception of one competition. (Even doing a convention nationals!) We did one convention this year and Piper loved it. For me, I love that there are scholarship opportunities and (in our case, at least) the teachers in the sessions are amazing.
Of course, they are more expensive. For Piper’s age, we are looking at $225-260/per convention + competition fees. I’m thinking that it will add about $1,000 to our overall costs. We will have to weigh whether or not we stay in the convention hotel or drive back/forth from home for the local events. Staying in the hotel is another added cost, so we’ll play that one by ear.
ATTIRE: With a change in studio, brought a new change in attire (logo jacket/pants). My best advice for this is “buy with room to grow”. I got two seasons out of Piper’s attire for Studio A, and I will get 2 years and possibly more out of Studio B.
STUFF: I still love “the stuff” … the DVDs, the photos, the shirts, the programs … I’m a sucker. It’s probably worse because I’m such a memory keeper with scrapbooking and Project Life. But, I have learned when to pass it by and when to buy, but more often then not – I’ll buy.
PACKING IT UP: I’m still in love with my Dream Duffel. You might recall from the last post that I had a small duffel. I’ve now graduated to a medium and could probably use a large! The Dream Duffel holds up so well and they’ve come out with so many accessories since my original posting specifically on them. I can’t recommend it enough.
If you are new, my advice would be to buy the basics – the duffel, their hangers (they are worth the money), and their garment bags. Then, after your first competition, order the additional accessories that you wish you had.
TRAVEL: This is always a biggie. Thankfully, we’ve gone to three nationals that are within driving distance for us. Next year, we will be flying. It’s still the single biggest expense of the year, but we’ve had such good experiences – I don’t regret it. If we did a nationals close to home, I’m not sure it would feel like nationals.
We’ve done condos alone, we’ve shared a house with friends, we’ve cooked in and eaten out … there are so many ways to try to make it cheaper, but in the end – you have to do what works for you. There are certainly pros and cons to every scenario. The bottom line is to plan early, budget, and make sure that you have all the information. (A huge key piece is “What day is my first dance?” If you are trying to pinch pennies, you might not want to show up on Saturday if you don’t dance until Thursday.)
No matter where we go or how we slice it, nationals for us is a $3,000 trip every year. And, probably $5,000 next year with flights.
So, here we are three years later, still paying over $10k per year for a little girl to dance. Is it worth it? There aren’t enough “yes-es”.
Piper has grown so much – 1,000% since we joined Studio B. She is independent, confident, and has a work ethic that most adults don’t have. She has never once complained about going to class or missing out.
More than anything, we’ve seen a talent blossom in her. And as long as she wants to nurture that talent, then it’s my job to make sure that she can.
Will she dance forever, who knows? I hope so. Right now, she plans on it. But, because this investment goes beyond the dance studio, I’ve gotten my money’s worth if she quit tomorrow.
For our family, this amount doesn’t come easy. There’s a lot of sacrifice, and thankfully, my mom helps out each month. Don and I both work extra jobs … and Don works A LOT of long hours. But, when I see how happy Piper is when she’s dancing and how her face lights up the second her foot steps on the stage – I’d do it a thousand times over. And, a thousand times again.