Happy 14th Birthday, Piper

Happy 14th Birthday, Piper

happy 14th birthday piper - 5

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in magazines. She was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful deep down to her soul.”

Let’s get past the obvious – how in the world are you 14? How has it been so long since you rushed into the world at lightning speed and turned us all upside down? My happy, chunky little sidekick has grown into a beautiful teenage girl.

Piper, there’s so much to love about you. I’ve been blessed to have some special one-on-one time with you this past year. With grace and class, you have pushed through every obstacle that has entered your path. Seeing that happen on your own, without much if any help from me, is just one more way that I know that you are ready for this world. (Although I’m not entirely sure that the world is ready for you!)

piper - happy birthday 14We saw a lot of the country together last year. You made friends in dance that took you from sea to shining sea. Many parents would ask why I just didn’t send you on your own? Why do I always tag along when you are obviously equipped to handle things alone? My answer: because I didn’t want to miss it. I love watching you shine your light. I love seeing you enjoy your life. Most people don’t understand the “why” in everything that you do. But I get it – and support it all the way!

Thirteen was so good, but you made some tough calls as well. I got to see you love cheerleading at school. What a fun time – you are always so happy anyway. You were the perfect cheerleader. Seeing you walk through the decision of not trying out again was hard. So many tears and what-if’s that you had to comb through. As a mom, I supported you 100% but prayed over and over that you were making the right choice. Fast forward to the week of cheer camp … we were in Orlando for Tremaine Nationals (the ultimate choice you had to make – cheer camp or Tremaine). The gala had finished – you had danced on stage as a company member more than once and your studio team had made the Gala performance … the season was officially over. You made the right choice. Your face said it all. And the tears you shed that night as you said goodbye to your friends and bid farewell to a perfect season left me speechless. You knew all along where your heart belonged and you were so right.

happy 14 birthday piperI’ve seen you watch your closest friends go through some very dark times. You never leave them. You don’t tell their stories or run to others with the drama. You are like Fort Knox with a secret. Everyone needs a friend like you, Piper. I’ve always gotten to watch you encourage and celebrate the people closest to you. It’s an awesome trait to be able to genuinely be happy for someone else. You have been that way your entire life. Don’t ever change.

Piper Kendall, you make me laugh so hard and smile from ear-to-ear every day. I cherish every second that I get to spend with you and I’m so grateful that God has allowed me to be your mom. I hope you will make the best of every single situation and opportunity that 14 brings. Know that I will move heaven and earth for you to reach every dream your curly little head can dream … I promise that.

I love you so much,

Dryel – Awesome Product for Your Delicate Fabrics

Dryel – Awesome Product for Your Delicate Fabrics


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post paid for on behalf of Dryel. It also contains affiliate links. The opinions stated are 100% my own. I used this product long before I was chosen for the promotion.

I have a secret: I’ve not walked into a dry cleaners in years. Years. The reason is two-fold, actually. First, if I see “dry clean only” on the tag – I walk away. Second, and more importantly, if it must be dry cleaned and my life won’t move forward without it – I use Dryel.

Dryel has been a saving grace for me for years when it comes to Piper’s dance costumes. After a few competitions, they need to be washed. The fabrics are so delicate and usually contain tons of mesh and rhinestones. It’s quite the production! I know many moms that just put them in the washer on delicate, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

That, in theory, gives me hives. 

I’m not willing to risk it – especially in the middle of competition season. I need the costumes clean and don’t have time to do repairs.

Enter Dryel!


In 3 steps, I am ready to rock ‘n roll:

Pre-Treat :: Check for stains. Most often on costumes, this is deodorant and make-up. The pre-treat option with Dryel reminds me of a stain stick. Compact and super easy to use!

Clean :: Put your garment(s) in the Dryel bag with the cleaning cloth (provided) and toss the bag into the dryer on medium heat for 15 minutes.

After :: If you still have some pesky wrinkles, hang the garment on a hanger and use the wrinkle spray.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klr2etIMjHc[/embedyt]

I wish this screen had “scratch and sniff” – Dryel smells amazing! It is so fresh, but not in a perfume way. Aside from how easy this product is to use, the smell is another factor that sells me!

If you are a dry cleaning fanatic, give this a shot. It’s so cost effective, and hello – you use your dryer! No more forgetting to pick up the cleaning! It couldn’t be any easier. Once you try it, let me know what you think!

Traveling Alone with Your Child

Traveling Alone with Your Child

Traveling Alone with Your Child

This month, I’m proud to be writing at Houston Moms Blog about a very special trip that I got to take this summer with Piper. My 5 Things to Remember When Traveling Alone with Your Child post is now live over there and I know that you’ll want to read it!

Piper is a great traveler and was super excited to see New York. So, like any good mom, I started a Pinterest board about New York and began to make a list of what we must-see and must-do since our time was going to be limited due to the dance class and competition restraints. By the time the trip rolled around, we were ready, prepared, and excited.

Take a look at let me know what you think! Bookmark the Houston Moms Blog site, it’s full of great content and timely information for parents with kids of all ages.

Arm Tights™ are new at SPANX!

First Time at YAGP

First Time at YAGP

first time at YAGPWe embarked on a new adventure in dance land this weekend: our first time at YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix). A truly international competition, they pride themselves as being the world’s largest global network of dance. They fulfill their mission through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances, and films.

You might have heard of YAGP through the film “First Position“. It’s available on Netflix and even if you aren’t a dancer, it worth watching. Kids from all over the world train solely for YAGP and the accolades that it brings.

first time at YAGPFor our family, we knew about YAGP only because of the film. Being in a large, metropolitan city, we tend to classify dance studios. Studio A, B, and C are where you go if you want to do serious ballet. Studio D, E, and F are good for competition. Studio G & H are for the kids who only want to dip their toes into dance. So, when we showed up this weekend to YAGP, we saw a whole lot of Studio A, B, and C.

Our studio does many competitions and conventions. It’s a different world then YAGP – by far. Our kids most definitely held their own and were choreographed appropriately for YAGP, but we don’t see a lot of ballet intensive pieces on a weekly basis. It is such an art. These kids are true athletes and the mere concentration that it takes to pull off their pieces is just astronomical.

I’m sure every weekend is different, but for us, Piper started off on Friday with her solo. We arrived about 2 hours prior, found a dressing room and let her begin stretching. At her appointed time, she found her way to the stage. She literally had to find it on her own, because I wasn’t allowed to go with her. Different then what we are used to with competitions and conventions, the stage is cleared between blocks of soloists and the dancers are allotted 30 minutes to share the stage and get a feel for how they might need to adjust their staging, etc. Piper dances her contemporary solo in bare feet, so she was happy to get a feel of the stage prior to “the real thing”.

Once we were done with solo, we were done for the day. It felt so odd to just leave, but at YAGP all awards are held until the final day of competition.

first time at YAGPThe following day, Piper had a group dance compete. This is a piece that she was so honored to be cast in, and as her mom – it’s one of my absolute favorites of not just the season, but of her time as a dancer. The group pieces run much the same way. The stage is cleared before each block so dancers can come on stage to get a feel of it. The difference with the groups is that each gets 1 minute of stage time on their own. So, the girls had to go on stage with a plan or their 1 minute would quickly slip through their hands.

On the final day of the weekend, Piper took 4.5 hours of master classes from some of the fabulous YAGP faculty. She had a contemporary, ballet, and variation workshop. Only 24 dancers in her session, so she really enjoyed it and took away some tidbits that she will (hopefully) carry over to her daily classes at her home studio. Our Houston workshops took place at the beautiful Houston Ballet facility. If you can’t get inspired in a professional facility, I don’t know where you could!

When the workshop classes ended, a fellow dance mom gathered up all of our company girls and brought them back to the site of the competition and awards. I love that YAGP has a dressy awards ceremony. Getting one foot on the stage this weekend was reason to be celebrated. I’m not being cliche in saying that either, it was truly awe-inspiring to see the dancers! So, our sweet dancers donned their best and off they went to see their fate.

All of our soloists and our group performed the strongest that they have all season. I feel like one of the reasons they did so well is because they had absolutely no pressure. They didn’t have a great understanding of what they were about to see throughout the weekend nor did they feel the pressure of qualifying for any further events. It was really a great feeling for all of them, truthfully.

first time at YAGPWhen it was all said and done, we had one senior girl in our studio that finished in the Top 12. We are so proud of her. Piper finished with a score significantly higher than what she ever expected and is over the moon!

Oh, and I’d be remiss to leave out the highlight of the weekend. Tate McRae. I’m not even kidding when I say that I gave the girl 80% of my votes each week on SYTYCD – Next Generation. She is an amazing dancer. And, she was in Piper’s age division – isn’t that just great luck LOL?!? The highlight of everyone’s weekend was seeing her. I swear I felt like the paparazzi, I was taking so many photos of this girl. And, I wasn’t the only mom – all of our girls had us on a mission. At the end of the awards ceremony, Piper finally got up the nerve to ask her for a photo. Tate was absolutely lovely in taking a photo with each of us. I know how proud I am of Piper and her talent, I can only imagine how Tate’s mom must feel — all of these girls knowing your daughter and asking for her photo. She must be bursting.

We are ready to take 2018 YAGP by storm. It truly is an amazing experience.


Carry On Dream Duffel Review

Carry On Dream Duffel ReviewWe were very excited to travel to Las Vegas this summer for Piper’s dance nationals. Prior to this, we competed for four summers in Florida. Luckily, we’ve always been able to drive in years past, so we welcomed a trek to new territory!

Not being able to stack suitcases and bags and duffels galore in the back of my over-sized SUV had me in a bit of a panic.We always tend to throw stuff in the car on the day we leave … things we see that we’d forgotten about, but notice on the way out the door. Getting on a plane knowing I had to have EVERYTHING … it was daunting to consider.

For four years, we had relied on our Dream Duffel to keep us organized. Truthfully, I rarely even opened it between competitions – I just left it zipped and knew that everything was inside! If you don’t take anything out, then you know it’s still there, right?

Over time, I’ve had a small, medium, and large Dream Duffel. (Here’s my original Dream Duffel review when we got our small.) I sold my small after one season and regretted it immediately. Immediately, I say.

Rewind to June 2015.

Carry On Dream Duffel Review

Photo Credit: DreamDuffel.com

Our flight to Las Vegas was on United Airlines. The medium duffel could be checked through as a normal piece of luggage. (Check your airline for size restrictions.) My plan was to take the costumes and dance shoes and place them in carry on bags, then take our clothes, toiletries, etc., and put that in the Dream Duffel. There was no way on God’s beautiful green earth that I was risking any airline losing that Dream Duffel complete with costumes. While the air staff took 3 days to locate the duffel in Tinbucktoo — we would be hung out to dry.

Then, ultimately … I decided that I really didn’t want to lug the big duffel all over Sin City. Plus, we were adding on a few days at the end of our trip which meant having to rent a car (truck/SUV) with a large enough cargo space to allow for the Dream Duffel, our luggage (4 of us), and the luggage for a set of grandparents (2 more people)!

See how this is adding up and becoming more overwhelming?

So, for a few days I lamented on how we might cope with not having a rack during competition. (We’ve never NOT had one.) Then I found out that we had 4 dances one day and 5 the next …. URGH! There was no way I wanted to handle quick changes without my best friend, the Dream Duffel.

One of the youngest girls on our team performed in just a few pieces and had the carry-on Dream Duffel. I had looked at it, talked myself in and out of it — many times. Then my best dance mom friend up and ordered one. She encouraged me to do the same. In my heart I know that this helps us both justify the purchase, and I fell right into the trap.

The carry on arrived with one day to spare and I was giddy to see if  I could actually fit all 9 costumes into the bag just for this one trip. It took a bit of thinking, but I did it!

This duffel is roomy-er than you would think with it’s size. The Dream Duffel website says that you should be able to fit 1-3 costumes inside. For regular use, I’d guess that’s pretty accurate. You’d be hard-pressed to fit more than 4 in it with hangers and all.

To pack for our trip with 9 costumes, this is what I did:

1 – I put all of our costumes in gallon Ziploc bags. (If you have bigger costumes, then you could use the bigger ones.) I put everything needed for the piece in the bag except jewelry and shoes.

Carry On Dream Duffel

2 – Then, I put the bags in the bottom of the carry-on Dream Duffel. (Make sure all the air is out of the bags!)

3 – I folded the Dream Duffel garment bags just like they came when I got them – basically in quarters. I put them on top of the Ziploc bagged costumes.

Carry On Dream Duffel

4 – Finally, I put the hangers on top.

I still had enough room to add a pair of tap shoes, a rolled-up make-up bag (this one I’m linking to comes in 11 patterns), and a rolled up jewelry organizer!

It worked great!!! I can’t say enough about this duffel. Although, this isn’t how you would want to use it every weekend, it worked awesome in a pinch! We plan to use this for our convention duffel (when we aren’t competing all of our group dances) or when we do an optional competition with just our solo or a few groups. We still have our large and medium duffels as well – I can make an argument to keep them all. They are fabulous and all of them are worth the price.

***Affiliate links used for Amazon purchases only.

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.