Lessons From a Drive-By Dance Mom


Sunday’s recital marked the end of recital season. And other than a couple of hours spent in an overheated dressing room, it really wasn’t that bad.

After a trying two seasons at another dance studio, I vowed this year would be better. The old studio was too far away; the class started early on Saturday mornings, and we were always late. The computer system was often down, so there was usually a discrepancy on my account balance. It never failed that we received our newsletter the night before any major deadline, so I made several last-minute runs for tights, ribbon, or glitzy hair clips. I hated it.

The new studio is less than 10 minutes from home, and classes start later in the day. E-mail updates arrive no later than a week in advance, and there is a lovely online payment system.

I didn’t use these perks to my advantage. I allowed my frustration with the last school stunt my relationship with the new one. I checked out and literally became a drive-by dance mom. I drove past the front door for weekly drop offs and pick ups. I sent Hubby in my place whenever possible.

I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. There must be a middle ground between the all-in dance mom and the drive-by model that I employ. Perhaps these things will help me the next time around.

Read. Read. Read. I’m so thankful the studio provides regular electronic updates, but they are useless if I don’t read (and heed) them. In some cases, I need to read them twice and set reminders for important deadlines (costume payment dates, dress rehearsals, etc.)

Check costumes and shoes right away. I picked up costumes nearly a month ago, then I put them in the closet. I found out during dress rehearsal that one of the them needed adjustments. We had to jerryrig it with safety pins.

Volunteer. I don’t have work at the studio every weekend, but it’s important for me to get involved. Mini Me loves dance; she’s warmed up to the school (finally) and has made a few friends. I don’t want to miss it.

Divide and conquer. This school does four performances. Mini Me danced in two of them. Hubs and I each went to one show so that Lil Ma could stay at home. Bringing a toddler to a two-hour dance performance is a really bad idea. Plus, it kept us from getting burned out.

Buy flowers. Shouldn’t every prima donna get flowers on opening night?

We have a few weeks off before the summer session begins. That’s plenty of time for us (me) to gear up for a good year. I think I should buy one of the studio’s dance mom t-shirts or a bumper sticker.

Ok. I probably won’t do that. But, I will do a better job of being engaged.

Better Luck Next Year – Summer Camp 2015



In January, I received a handful of brochures for local summer camps.

“Too soon.” I thought. After briefly flipping through them, I tucked them away for spring.

Then I forgot about it until a month before school let out. So basically, I missed the boat. Again. Luckily, Mini Me’s school is having a camp this year, and registration opened in May.

Summer camp is serious business. If you don’t have your plans figured out by spring break, then it’s rough finding a solution before the close of the school year. Here’s what I’ve done now to make sure I’m in better shape for 2015.

1. Asked around. Get recommendations from parents and teachers. A friend of mine enrolled her daughter in a free camp offered by D.A.R.E. and local law enforcement. Mini Me’s teacher sent us a notice about another free camp where kids plant a community garden to learn about food production. (I looked at the e-mail two weeks too late. Sigh)

2. Reviewed outdated brochures. Some camps wouldn’t have worked for us because of location, camp hours, or price. Others seem as if they would be good options. Most of them have detailed registration procedures with incentives for early enrollment.

3. Made note of annual activities. Our school generally lets out around Memorial Day and starts again in early August. My mother-in-law takes Mini Me on an week-long trip every July. I need to keep these dates in mind.

With this general information, I filled my calendar with reminders.

August 2014: Check in with friend on D.A.R.E. camp. How was it? Would she consider it again for next year?

January 2015: Check to see if camps of interest have released new schedules. Review information and make additional calendar reminders based on registration dates.

Early February: Do a second check on camp schedules. Update registration reminders if needed.

Late February – Early March: Turn in registrations. Breath a sigh of relief.

It will be a while before I can let you know how this worked out, but it’s got to be better than the alternative.

How do you stay ahead of  summer planning?

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The Difference Between Moms and Dads



Hubby is home for a few extra weeks, so it’s time for us to get back into a partner-parenting groove. (Hooray!)

These last few two and two cycles have sucked. Numerous home repairs, work issues, and testy kids have made for a rough spring.  So I’m happy that things are settling down as we move into the summer months.

With Hubby at home, I don’t have to race out of the office while praying for clear traffic. He takes care of daycare pickups, homework, and dinner. When the girls have simultaneous meltdowns, we divide and conquer. I must admit the meltdowns are much less frequent now that Daddy’s home; the kids are overjoyed to have him around. (Especially the little one — I swear she is his carbon copy.)

My house is good shape. The grass it cut. That pesky tree branch that hits me in the head every time I walk Mini Me to the bus stop is trimmed. The Christmas lights from 2012 are gone. (No, this is not a typo. Those lights were up for more than a year.) The bathroom sink is unclogged. My car finally stopped sputtering like a 1910 Model T thanks to six new spark plugs and an oil change.

Life is good.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a sputter-free drive to a my book club meeting. I’ve gathered with this group every month for the past 15 years. We’ve supported each other through job changes, marriages, births, and loss of loved ones. Along the way, we’ve read a collection of good, not-so-good, and downright awful books.

My friend had us laughing as she stated her plan to cook for herself this week because it was her husband’s turn to manage dinner for himself and their kids. She explained that if she wasn’t interested in what her Hubs had prepared, she’d just make something else. It didn’t work the other way around, though. Whenever she cooks, everyone in the house has the same dinner. They reached this arrangement a while ago, she said, and it works just fine for them.

I started thinking about how Hubby and I handle situations differently. Things that seem so important to me go unnoticed by him. For example, Hubby took the kids to see his mom while I was at book club. Mini Me, who’s nine years old, was wearing the same set of pajamas she had on when I left the house.

“Did you wear your PJs to Grandmas?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “Grandma didn’t mind.”

Normally, I would be miffed. Who takes their big kid out in pajamas?

But really, what does it matter in the grand scheme of things? No one, not even me, is going to remember that my kid wore pajamas to her grandma’s house on a random Sunday in May. Our girls are happy and healthy. They got to spend time with their dad. I was able to hang with friends for a while. Our partner-parenting groove is working.

So instead of fussing, I kissed Mini Me on her forehead and told her I was glad she had a good time.

Like I said — life is good.


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#TBT – Becoming Stepmom

In honor of Mothers Day, I’m pulling one of my favorite posts for Throwback Thursday. I wrote this about three and a half years ago after my husband’s son came to visit us. I proudly wore the badge of motherhood, but until that visit, I never thought of myself as a stepparent. The week D spent with us reminded me that motherhood is a journey of varied paths, and I just so happened to be traveling on two at the same time.

Original post date: December 29, 2010
Post Title: 16 and 6 

It’s been a wonderful holiday season so far. And, true to form, I got so busy that I forgot to blog about it! Here’s one of the highlights:

My husband’s 16-year-old son came to visit us for the first time. Even though I knew of D’s existence, I never thought of myself as a stepmom. I wanted my husband to spend more time with his son, and I wanted our daughter to know her brother, but I hadn’t factored myself into the equation. Plus, the drama behind it all had gone on for so long that I thought D would be an adult by the time we finally met.

So when the prospect of blending our family became a reality rather than a theory, I was a nervous wreck. “Just be yourself,” Hubby said. “It’ll be great!”

I tried to share Hubby’s optimism, but I couldn’t shake the underlying fear that I’d somehow turn out to be the Wicked Stepmother. Could I ask him to do dishes without appearing to be a power-crazed meanie?

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. D is a great kid, and he has the same kind and optimistic demeanor as his dad. Plus, his little sister wrapped him around her baby finger. He was playing Barbies and promising to bake cookies within 10 minutes of his arrival. That girl’s got skills, I must admit.

After prying my daughter off of D’s leg and putting her to bed, I had a chance to talk with him alone. Hubby went to bed early, exhausted from working late hours. D was eating some baked chicken he found in the fridge. (Note: Teenage boys eat A LOT. Plan on doubling your grocery bill.)

“Do you have any rules I should know about?” he asked.

“Don’t drink my club soda,” I said. “I can’t really think of anything else right now.”

D nodded, and he then proceeded to tell me how he had been looking forward to this visit.

“It was really bothering me that I have a sister, and I don’t know her,” he said. “It’s been bothering me for a while.” He licked his fingers. “This is good chicken, by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m glad you’re here. You’re welcome anytime.”

And that was it. All the nervousness melted away.

A few days later, I gave Hubby a hug as he was watching the kids put together a puzzle.

“You’ve got two kids,” I said. “How does it feel?”

“Feels good,” he said. “You know, you’ve got two kids too.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

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Getting Out the Door With My Sanity


I’m not a morning person. But I want to be.

I wish I could rise with the sun and start my day with a chipper attitude. At this juncture, however, that’s just not happening. There was a time in my life (pre-kids), when I could wake, workout, and make it to the office on time. I haven’t completely given up hope that I will one day be that person again. In the meantime, though, I’m doing my best to leave the house with both kids and without a nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something. Here are some things I’ve learned that can reduce the morning madness.

The Night Before:

Figure out breakfast. Mini Me likes granola bars or cereal, and Lil Ma eats at daycare, so no prep work is required. I, on the other hand, like smoothies. Putting portion-sized bags of frozen or fresh fruit together make the morning a little easier.

Pack lunch. Assemble as much as you can so that you can grab and go the next day. If you plan on taking leftovers from that evening’s dinner, put some in a lunch-size container as you’re cleaning the kitchen. It won’t even feel like extra work.

Check bags. Check backpacks and work totes to make sure you have everything you need. Finding a permission slip that needs a signature and $3 right before the bus comes is guarantee that you’ll be driving the kids to school.

Pick an outfit. I put my clothes together on the weekend, but if that sounds overwhelming, try the night before. And don’t forget clean undies. I’ve done that a time or two, and I had to hand wash then dry with a hair dryer. Not cool.

Consider picking two outfits. When Lil Ma was an infant, she had awful acid reflux. There were countless days when I was christened with spit up five minutes before we were due to leave. Having a backup outfit ready allows for a quick change.

Gather everything. Bags, totes, shoes, and that book you promised your coworker all need to be in the same place so you aren’t running around like a nut looking for them.


In the Morning:

Skip the snooze. I’m still working on this one myself, but staying in the bed too long makes the morning more harried.

Wake in shifts. I get up (usually) 30 minutes before Mini Me. Mini Me gets up 30 minutes before Lil Ma. This cuts down on chaos and clashes for the bathroom.

Pack the car first. I put everything, including my frozen smoothie, in the car before I wake up Lil Ma. Then all I need to worry about is her.

The mornings are still a work in progress, but these steps have made a huge difference.

What do you do to make it out the door on time?


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