Reflections on Past Writings

Recently,  I went back and re-read some of my old posts. It’s interesting to read your past writings (for many reasons).

When I started blogging about dance competitions, I did a much better job of explaining the levels, the awards, etc. than I do now. As the years went on, it felt redundant, and I quit doing that. Instead, I talked about our schedule, the judges, the venues, the results. I suppose the original posts were more interesting to read. They certainly would have been more helpful to people who are researching the different competitions.

Originally, I started this blog as a way to help other new dance moms navigate the crazy world of competition dance by sharing what I have learned. I posted about what people could expect at competitions, what to pack, rhinestoning costumes, what different things mean at different competitions, etc. Now, I guess I write more because I enjoy it.

When I don’t post for a while, I am always surprised when people ask me when I will post again. It brings me back to 10th grade (maybe 11th). I had a writing teacher that would tell me she couldn’t wait to read my next paper. She would tell me she enjoyed my point-of-view and my writing style. She always made me feel important, even though I always thought she was full of it. Looking back, it was probably because of her encouragement that I later became the editor and main contributor to my college newspaper. It was likely because of her that I was asked to edit the newsletter for a Consulting company I used to work for, and contributed to our church’s newsletters with articles about Child Development. It might have even been because of her that I started blogging. She gave me the confidence to think someone might care to read what I write.

As I’m now in the middle of our last year of competition dance, I’ve gotten lazy about writing all the details. I’m trying to just enjoy the car rides with my daughter, the excitement of what each competition might hold, and all the amazing dances I get to see each weekend. That said, I am also starting to feel like this is my last chance to help other moms new to the experience of being a Dance Mom. Maybe I should start adding all the  details back in? Maybe no one really cares to read all that. I have two competitions we’ve attended that I haven’t written about, and one that I might go back and add more “helpful” details about. I haven’t decided which direction to go with those posts.

My husband has been encouraging me for years to write a book on the subject. I always doubted that I have enough insight, or enough wisdom in this area to write a whole book. I am not a perfect dance mom. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve argued with my daughter, I’ve irritated our studio owner. My daughter has showed up to competitions without hairspray or enough bobby pins, she’s been missing needed items… I might be able to give my opinion on different aspects of being a dance mom, but what if people disagree with me? The doubt, and the what ifs, are what hold us back- they are what hold me back. Other books have since been published about being a parent in the competition dance world. Maybe I missed my opportunity. Maybe, I will be bored next year when I’m not spending every Friday night working at the dance studio to help pay for my dancer’s tuition. Maybe I will decide to attempt a short book, and publish it as an e-book… maybe, I will just say goodbye to the world of competition dance, and just be a tap student again.

I’ve made many friendships through the dance studio. I don’t doubt that many of those relationships will continue. I’m pretty sure I will miss being a Dance Mom. Then again, I might just enjoy having my Spring back.  As the new chapter of life takes shape, I don’t know what I will write about. Only time will tell.

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BravO! Dance Competition 2019

Two weeks ago, we were at the Ames Center in Burnsville for Lake Area Dance Center‘s first competition of the year for our whole studio, BravO! National Dance & Talent Competition. The weekend started for us on Friday night, with my daughter’s two solos. There were a total of 71 Senior BravO! level (Advanced level) solos. I was really proud of Grace, she did so well on her dances! She really got into her character for her musical theater solo, and got into the emotion of her contemporary solo. She felt great about her performances, which is always a good thing. She scored platinum with both. A big accomplishment for her!

Saturday, Grace only had her Production dance. Production amazes me every year. It always exceeds expectations. All of our competitive dancers are part of this routine. I don’t know how many dancers there are in all, but it must be somewhere between 75-100 dancers on stage at once. I know it gets chaotic backstage and in the wings, but on stage, it looks great. The minis are always so cute, when they come out with little pitter-patters across the stage. Studio ownner, Maria,  does a great job of highlighting strengths of different dancers in different sections. Production got a platinum score, and took first in the line/production category in the Junior level Encore! (Intermediate) division. They also received the Standing O!vation Award, which combines choreography, showmanship, costume, technique, etc.

Grace with her two Platinum Score plaques.

We went early to watch the Minis, Petites, Juniors, and Pre-teens’ large groups. Grace also wanted to help with props, and assisting where needed. We ended up staying to watch small groups, and a few of the solos too. It was fun to see all the dances we don’t usually get to see, though it made for a long day.

Sunday was our scheduled long day. Grace had 9 dances over about an 8 hour span. The morning was filled with her three small groups (tap, contemporary, and the Graduating Seniors – also in the contemporary division). It was my first time seeing all these dances. The tap one looked so fun, contemporary looked very together, and the Seniors one was so sweet! All three scored Elite High Gold. Next came large groups, starting with our Line that combines Pre-teens, Teens, and Seniors. The day continued on with one dance after another. My poor girl was exhausted, and hungry by the end. I got her popcorn chicken to nibble on as she was able, and she had other snacks in her bag, but there just wasn’t a lot of time for eating. She was on Spring Break the following week, and slept most of Monday. Most of her routines scored Elite High Gold, with tap and hip hop scoring Platinum.

A few notes about this competition:

  • The programs were a reasonable price at $10, but there weren’t any places to write awards. I always appreciate when they do have those sections. On the up-side, the pace of the awards was not so fast that you couldn’t keep up to record them. They were very good at announcing the numbers (with the exception of one judge announcing her special awards).
  • I mention this with almost every competition, but when awards are being announced, they should really turn the music off. It’s distracting, and can make it hard to hear.
  • I liked the shorter sessions between awards. It made the awards sessions go faster too.
  • I don’t understand why they only give one medal to duets/trios. Two-three people earned it, they should each get one.
  • I appreciated that at the awards session for Seniors, they acknowledged the Graduating Seniors, and asked them to stand up. It was weird to see Grace among them.

    BravO!, Honoring Graduating Seniors.

  • Tap sounds were picked up with microphones. You couldn’t see them from the audience, but tap sounds were loud enough that you could often hear them out in the lobby.
  • I liked some of the different awards they gave, such as the “Excellence in Showmanship” award which gave the winner a goody bag of swag, plus a scholarship to a summer intensive (one of our dancers won this one), and the Scholarship Award that gave the winner a larger ($300) scholarship to a summer intensive. My friend from high school was there, and her son won this award. It was so cool to see familiar faces on that stage! They also had a raffle that gave gift cards to Discount Dance Supply, and garment bags from Dream Duffel. I enjoyed seeing the variety of interaction that we don’t often get to see at competitions. I’m sure the sponsors appreciate their mentions as well! 😉
  • Being the “New guy” at a competition can be somewhat frustrating. This is our 2nd year at BravO!, many of the other studios there come every year, and/or attend their Nationals. We were very familiar with other studios there, as we have seen them at the Masquerade Nationals we attend every year, or at other competitions. We saw some great routines, which is part of the fun of attending competitions. These routines, as well as some of ours, scored very high. The frustrating part came when the Top 5 in different categories became what seemed to be predictable. I’m not saying anything was “rigged”, or that judges were playing favorites. Some routines were very clearly entered in the wrong category, others were given higher scores that I would have given. I know I’m not a judge, but I have been attending competitions for years. I just didn’t agree with some of the judges’ choices or scores… I just hope the critiques justified the scores, and/or were helpful.
  • Overall, this is a fun competition. Grace told me it felt like a big party. The music and lights at the beginning of awards’ sessions are exciting. The announcer is a little over-the-top with his commentary, but he is also very entertaining. I enjoyed most aspects of the competition. On to the next one!

 

Masquerade “MN I” Dance Competition 2019

This is my daughter’s Senior Year. Since it’s her last “hurrah”, she is doing all the things she hasn’t been able to do over the past several years. She is in multiple small groups, and is doing 2 solos (one of which she choreographed herself). I also let her sign up for all of the optional competitions with her solos. The first of those was Masquerade Dance Competition’s “MN I”.

Masquerade comes to Minnesota several times throughout the year. This was the first of this year. Because it was so early in the competition season, it was a much smaller competition than we are used to at MN III, the one Lake Area Dance Center typically attends as a whole studio. There were less studios, and fewer groups. It was a great opportunity for our dancers to get some experience performing, and get some early feedback.

Graduating Seniors Niki and Grace prepare for their first competitions of the season.

This competition had a much different feel than our usual Masquerade Competition. It was smaller, as I’ve mentioned, but it was more than that. There was an overall supportive vibe at this event. People were very positive. Everyone seemed to encourage each other, whether they knew each other or not. Several people that we didn’t know, came up to Grace and told her she did a great job. I was so surprised, because while I thought she did, I am also a bit biased, because I’m her mom. It was wonderful to hear that so many strangers thought so too.

There was plenty of room to run dances while waiting for their turn to take the stage.

Grace is typically a tapper, but this year, decided to push herself to do something different. She self-choreographed a Contemporary solo. She is also doing a Musical Theater solo, choreographed by our studio owner, Miss Maria. She was very excited to perform them for the first time.  Her goal has always been to get a platinum score on her solos at Masquerade. She has never quite reached that adjudication level with any solo at Masquerade competitions – Regionals or Nationals. She met that goal with one of her two solos. She got a Platinum score with her Contemporary solo, and High Gold on her Musical Theater.

An extra surprise that we found out about the day before, was that a few dancers from our previous studio in Wisconsin, Eau Claire School of Dance, were also at MN I with their solos and duets. We met up with them briefly, though, all were busy rehearsing and preparing for subsequent performances. It was fun to see old friends!

Lexi, Grace, and Zoe danced together at Eau Claire School of Dance 9 or so years ago!

Overall, MN I was a wonderful experience. I wished we had done this competition in years past. It was a great way to start her last season competing!

 

 

Bacon-Wrapped Cheesy Meatloaf

I don’t often post recipes, and don’t have the step-by-step pictures, but since I had a few requests, I thought I would give it a shot.

Earlier this week, a friend posted a video for a cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped meatloaf. The problem, was that it was in German. I searched for “bacon-wrapped cheesy meatloaf”, and found this recipe that was similar, but used cheddar cheese instead of Babybel cheese. It was close to what I wanted, but not quite it. I did another search, and found a recipe from Pillsbury.

I decided to combine pieces of the three different recipes, and make my own. I had too much meat for one meatloaf, so I made one in a regular loaf pan with cheese in the middle, and one in a mini loaf pan with no cheese. Everyone ate it. Only one, who doesn’t like any meatloaf, said she didn’t care for it. My 13-year-old boy had three pieces (one with cheese, two without)! I would definitely make and eat it again.

I’m going to do my best to try to recreate how I made this meatloaf. Most measurements are approximate.

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef (I think each of my “pounds” was closer to 1.3 lbs)

2 eggs

1 Cup Bread Crumbs

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (plus a little more)

1 Tbsp garlic

1 tsp mustard (normally I use dry mustard, but today, I used regular)

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp pepper

Onion (if I’d have had any, I’d have probably put in 2 Tbs of chopped onions).

1/2 tsp – 1 tsp olive oil (I just poured a little in)

1 pack Babybel cheese (6-8 circles)

1 1/2 lbs bacon

Glaze:

1/4 cup ketchup

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp white wine vinegar (I was out, so I just mixed the ketchup and brown sugar together)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray pan(s) with cooking spray. Place bacon along all 4 sides of the pan (with bacon hanging over the edge to cover the meatloaf later).

Mix together meat and all ingredients (except Babybel, bacon, and glaze).

Put about half of the meat in the pan, pat down and create a slight trench down the middle.

Unwrap all Babybel cheese pieces, and place them down the center of the meatloaf. I had 6 pieces, but 8 would have been better. (Both other recipes used shredded cheddar cheese vs Babybel in the middle).

Cover cheese with the rest of the meat mixture. (Follow the same steps with a mini loaf pan, if you have extra).

Mix glaze, and brush it over meatloaf.

Wrap bacon over the top of the meatloaf.

Cook for 1 hour. My small loaf was ready after about an hour. I had to put it in for another 15 minutes or so for the larger loaf to be cooked all the way through. Both recipes called for it to be 160 degrees, but I didn’t use a meat thermometer to check it. I went based on how cooked the bacon was, and tried the “toothpick test”.

Let it sit 1-5 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Playing Goldilocks

My husband, Jason, and I, recently went furniture shopping. Our adventures felt a little like we were right out of the famous story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

We had already looked online at HOM Furniture, so we knew we wanted to shop there. They had a lot of options that we liked, but we wanted to sit on them first.  While at the store, we started out by sitting on couches that were under $1000. We then decided not to look at the prices, and just sit on all of them. Once we found one we liked, we’d then look at the price tag.

Our new sofa and matching loveseat. They are more of a grey color than what shows here, but we love them!

The one thing neither of us wanted, were removable pillows on the back, so we didn’t try any of those. I sat on a couch I liked, and Jason would say it was too firm. Jason would find one he liked, and I’d think it was too soft. Another one Jason liked, but the back was so far away, that I felt like I was leaning waaay back in order for my back to touch. Finally, we found one we both liked! It was neither too hard, nor too soft, the distance to the back was just right. When we looked at the price tag, it was one of the less expensive sofas they had, and they had a loveseat to match. Actually, the salesman we talked to told us they have matching loveseats for pretty much any sofa on the floor, for just $20 less than the price of the sofa. We thought about it for a couple days, then ended up ordering it from their online store. When it was delivered, we were surprised to learn that they came with the decorative pillows too! 🙂

Our next stop (not the same day) was Mattress Firm. I had to laugh when the salesman there told us to play Goldilocks, and test out all the beds. I had already told Jason’s mom that it was like that’s what we were doing when shopping for our couch and loveseat.

They had their beds color coded by firmness. We only tried the middle ones, because we knew we wouldn’t agree on a soft or firm one. We ended up getting one that was comfortable for both of us. What we hadn’t planned on, was that we ended up getting an adjustable bed.

It may not be much to look at here, but this is one comfy bed!

As I was laying on the bed, the salesman had to check in with a different customer. Jason started playing with the remote for the bed I was laying on. He raised my head up just to mess with me. All the sudden, I was at the perfect height to read in bed, and I stated as much. He asked if I wanted to get that one. I didn’t say no. Mattress Firm delivered the new bed the day we moved into our new house. They put it together, right where we wanted it, and made sure it all worked before having me sign off on it. I’m not sure I have slept so well in quite a while!

 

Guest Choreography

Over the past several years, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) has branched out into having guests choreograph different routines. Most years, it has been small groups or solos. The exception has been that the Senior Hip Hop group was the only large group having guest choreography. Choreographers have included teachers from other local studios, and, in more recent years, other professionals from the dance world.

The benefits of having guests choreographers are many. Dancers who learn from a variety of instructors, whether it be guest choreographers, or through Master classes or conventions, become better dancers. They get to learn new techniques and styles they might otherwise not experience.

Grace’s first experience with a guest choreographer was 3 years ago. She was in the Senior Hip Hop Group. Katelyn Bloomquist (formerly Rademacher), was the choreographer. The routine was called “Bake Shop”. It was a fun routine, with a unique twist on hip hop and baking. 🙂

2017-2018 – “Ya Ya” with Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker

The next year, her hip hop routine, “Starving”, was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel. It was a smooth hip hop routine. They got special judges’ awards for their style and performance. Last year, her hip hop routine was also choreographed by Anthony Gabriel, with Cory Booker as a co-choreographer. This was a hard-hitting routine called “Ya Ya”. Our dancers again received judges awards for this routine, with comments about how different this routine was from any they had seen from LADC before.

2017-18 – “Love Me or Leave Me” with Kaleena Miller

Last year, her tap small group was choreographed by Kaleena Miller. We have been to many of her tap shows before, and are big fans of her style. Last year’s piece was called “Love Me or Leave Me.” Her rhythmic tap style made for a happy, fun routine that challenged our dancers. This piece was also selected to perform in the 2018 Twin Cities Tap Festival. This year’s tap small group routine has also been choreographed by Kaleena Miller.

 

2018-19 Graduating Seniors – lyrical small group with Katelyn Bloomquist.

This year, Grace has 5 routines (including the tap small group listed above) that are guest choreographed. She has lyrical and contemporary small groups, both choreographed by Katelyn Bloomquist.

Her hip hop large group has been choreographed by Erik Saradpon. Once again, this is a very different style of hip hop for their group.

 

2018-19 Hip Hop with Erik Saradpon

 

She is also part of a new Heels large group that has been choreographed by James Kinney, and Alex Nordin. This group routine has a completely different feel than any our studio has performed before. The girls were all extremely excited when they finished their choreography session with these two!

2018-19 Heels routine with James Kinney and Alex Nordin

Grace loves all of her dances she has learned so far. It’s going to be a great Senior year!

Saying Goodbye Sucks

Recently , we had to put our dog to sleep. It was a REALLY tough day!

I took this picture 2 days before we put him to sleep, not realizing just how sick he really was.

For the past several years, Duke has been suffering from arthritis. It has gotten worse over the past year. In April, I witnessed a day where he couldn’t get up for about 5 minutes. That’s when I brought him in to the vet, and got him put on Carprofen, glucosamine, and fish-oil. It seemed to help for a while. When we’d run out of the Carprofen, and I couldn’t pick it up for a day or two, I could tell he was in pain. It was so sad.

For the past month or so, even on the meds, his arthritis was rapidly getting worse. The weekend before we put him down, I watched him struggling to get up and down the steps to the basement, where his bed and door to his kennel were.

On top of the arthritis, or maybe the cause of it, was the fact that he had Lyme’s Disease 8 years ago when we got him. Every 6-12 months or so, he would have flare ups that have been increasing in frequency over the past couple years. When he would have a flare up, he would get really sick. Occasionally, he would get bladder stones that also made him really sick. He had tumors on several parts of his body. New ones seemed to pop up every couple months… it was time, but it was awful.

This was taken the day we got Duke. He was so skinny.

Duke was almost 12 years old. He was loving and loyal. He didn’t like other dogs very much, but he loved everyone who would take a minute to pet him. It was hard to say goodbye to him. If I thought it was hard for me, it was even harder for my two kids. We got him when their dad and I were getting divorced. Grace was about 9, and Michael was about 5. They loved him from the moment they met him!

The night before we had him put to sleep, we had decided it was time. He was up all night with diarrhea (I literally had to let him out at least once an hour all night long). The morning of, Grace went down to say her goodbyes before school. It broke my heart a little bit to see her crying over him. He just looked up at her, like he knew it was time. She pet him for a few minutes, and then had to go.

Michael wanted to come with to the vet. He wanted to be there for his best buddy when he went to sleep. It was tough, as we both kept crying, trying to comfort each other, but also love up on Duke for the last time. The room they had us in to say goodbye was very comforting. There was a big dog bed on the floor, and a couch with blankets on it. The vet came in and did one last exam. He said Duke’s heart and lungs sounded good, and that he didn’t see any signs of a terminal illness. He mentioned that perhaps he was just really sick, and that with the right medication, we could get him back to normal. THAT WAS THE WORST THING HE COULD HAVE SAID! It tore my heart even a little more to have to stick to my decision. He followed that up with “Well, it really comes down to quality of life, and it’s your decision.” Ugh!!

I knew that if we gave him meds, he might get better. But, in between then and the next 4-6 months when we’d be going through this again, he’d still be in pain. Even with the pain meds and anti-inflammatories, he’d be pacing around the house, because it hurt too much to lay down. I knew we’d still be whimpering in his sleep, because he was hurting. I knew he’d continue to get more and more tumors (fatty tumors or cancer, we’d never have found out). I knew I had to stick with the decision to put him to sleep, but it was not easy!

This picture was taken when he was somewhere between 3 and 4 years old.

It was sad to see him go. He was just sitting between Michael and I. He was panting, and calm. He was enjoying that we were petting him, and that he had gotten to have many treats while we were there. As the vet put the sedative in his IV port, he relaxed. As the other medication went in, his panting slowed down even more, and he just put his head down and went to sleep forever. It was very peaceful, but also so sad.

That night, Michael was crying in his bed. He said he didn’t understand, the vet said Duke was fine. I had to remind him of all the reasons that it wouldn’t have been fair to Duke to keep trying to get him better, only to keep suffering in between getting really sick. I really wish the vet hadn’t said that, especially in front of a 13 year old kid who is trying to figure out how to say goodbye to his best buddy.

Once he started to realize that truth, Michael switched to blaming himself… after they put the IV port in Duke’s leg, they brought him back in to us. They told us to take as long as we wanted, and knock on the door when we were “ready” for them to come give him the medication. Michael paced around the room during that time. He pet Duke, gave him treats, and after 15-20 minutes, he knocked on the door. He said it was his fault, and that he should have waited longer. I told him we could have stayed in there for hours with Duke, and it still wouldn’t have seemed long enough.

We did get an impression of his paw, which sits on Michael’s dresser. I  noticed his leash show up on the dresser one day, and occasionally, it gets moved around, so I know he is still thinking about him. I don’t know if having him come along was the best or worst thing to do, but I wanted to honor his wishes.

Image result for heart with paw printThere are times when I miss Duke that I don’t even realize it. When I was watching Michael get on the bus on the first day of school was one of those days. Usually, Duke would have been right there with me watching him.

When people say pets leave a paw print on our hearts, they are right. Even weeks later, I get sad when I think about our sweet boy. The tears still come sometimes. I will never forget our Duke.

 

 

 

 

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