Graduation: Bittersweet End

Last night was MC’s graduation ceremony.

It occurred without this family, including MC himself, in attendance.

I am proud of his decision to not walk, because that decision was based on facts and looking to the future when he has to go off to college and he didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his being able to do that.

For MC, being able to be on campus as required, taking advantage of his scholarships in the process, was more important to him than that big moment, that event. He wasn’t willing to risk his ability to start college and for that I cannot be more proud of him.

At the same time, I’m so sad.

I thought I was fine with it all emotionally. I had no problems at all when he started getting texts from one of his friends that did attend with the latest updates on the event. Mostly updates that just confirmed for MC that he made the right choice (because yes, even though they said masks required, people didn’t wear them, even to hand out the diplomas).

Then I saw the pictures the school posted on their FB page and some of the quotes from the speakers.

It knocked the breath from my lungs seeing the evidence and having the realization that this incredibly important moment is now officially final. There were so many “He’s done! But… ” moments along the way. The last official day of school. The last AP test that happened after that last official day, getting those scores (he aced it, of course) and several other things that kept dragging the whole end of high school out just a little bit more.

He ran by the school the other day and picked up his diploma. It will be the last time he sets foot in that school unless he goes for something of BG’s. There are no more tests. No more grades to wait for.

No special recognition for graduating summa cum laude. No moment of cheering when his name is called or as he walks across the stage.

I’m incredibly sad that I don’t get that moment and that his incredible high school career ended without any kind of fanfare.

Instead, I have all these smaller, more personal moments with him. Our amazingly fun photo session of him in his cap and gown. The one and only time I will get to see him in it. His “last day of school” movie night that he wanted as his celebration. Just Hubby, BG, MC and me. And all of our smaller celebrations along the way of all those accomplishments he worked so hard to achieve.

Instead I get to hear him say that the only recognition he needs for those accomplishments, he’s already gotten in the form of his scholarships. I get to see my son making these incredibly tough, but thoughtful, grown up decisions. Decisions that show the incredible kind of man his is already well on his way to becoming.

As of last night, while we sat at home and listened to him relay the information being texted to him from his friend, my son quietly graduated from high school. I am sad and grieving a bit for those lost moments, but I am more proud than I am sad because I have a phenomenal son.

I’m going to have my sad moment before I suck it up and move on. At least for the next couple of weeks before I’m a mess again after move in day and he becomes a college student instead of just a high school graduate.

NEOWISE And The Big Dipper

I honestly have no clue how well this image will show. If possible, click on it to make it bigger (or whatever to get it to fit in your screen as you need to see it all at once).

I created this image from a photo I took while I was doing comet watch. The night BG went out with me, she asked if it was possible to get the big dipper and the comet in the same shot because she wanted it for the background on her phone. While it was easy enough to frame them together, getting everything else right to get her what she was looking for really wasn’t easy at all.

Along with most of the typical difficulties I had in trying to get a clean shot of the comet, fuzziness and streaky stars and correct exposure with the urban light pollution,  I had to try and get ALL of the elements she wanted working together at the same time.

She really wanted to be able to clearly see both the comet and the big dipper, but she also wanted enough other stars to be seen, but not so many that you lost the big dipper.

It seemed like no matter how I processed it in photoshop, there was always at least one aspect that didn’t work. Too many stars. Not enough stars. A loss of the comet tail. A brightness fade from a corner of the shot because of ambient lighting on the horizon. I would get one aspect the way I really liked it and another one would be way off. I got her a version that worked okay, but she didn’t absolutely love. Still, it was close enough so I called it good.

Then I spent umpteen hours playing with learning how to photo stack, working on edits for MC’s senior pictures and learning how to fix a couple of issues (glare on glasses lenses is an absolute bear if it is bad enough or in the wrong spot). In the process, I figured a few things out that I thought might make a difference on BG’s photo.

So I dug in and played.

Multiple layers, hours and various techniques later, I have pretty much exactly what she asked for. It isn’t perfect by a long shot and is pretty much only really good for what BG wanted to use it as, but I’m exceptionally pleased with it.

The image is very much still a photo. All I really did was play with the kinds of techniques you might see in a darkroom for film/print processing. Mostly.

Now if I could just figure out how to make the stars and comet just a bit bigger and noticeable, It’d be near perfect for what I really wanted out of this one. As it is, I still managed to get damn close.

*In case you can’t click the first image…

NEOWISE & The Big Dipper
NEOWISE & The Big Dipper

Reconciling Choices

It is nearly impossible to be a parent of school age children, even those in college, and not be dealing with all the tough choices and situations facing us right now with back to school looming.

I thought that everything was made easier for me when BG’s school district allowed for an online only option for students. I was relieved. I wasn’t being forced into a position where the only option was to send her to an in person classroom environment or to try and figure out an alternative on my own.

Sadly, it really isn’t that easy.

There is a chance, potentially a big chance, that by going the online only route, some of BG’s higher level classes won’t be available to her and she will be forced to take other classes. I seriously doubt there are going to be many options to work her classes in a way that would meet her high school goals if those aren’t available. It was hard enough to make her schedule work in normal years and this is so far from normal.

Then add in the fact that she was supposed to be a part of the mentoring program this year, something that I don’t know if she can still be a part of if she is going the online route. We still haven’t heard anything on that front yet.

Another stressor, at least for me, is dance. It was such a relief to get past recital and feel like we were finally done with it, but we aren’t. Enrollment starts soon and dance isn’t being offered online at this point. It is in person only. This is not a required activity, but it is BG’s only real social interaction and where her group of friends exist rather than at school.

This is problematic on many levels. I’ve already seen the lax attitude towards some safety guidelines, especially surrounding masks. That gets amplified because the studio isn’t just attended by students from a single school or even district. If I had to count the districts and schools I’m already aware of (and I know I don’t know them all), there are at least 4 different districts and possibly upwards of at least 6 individual schools represented just in BG’s main class alone. That doesn’t even begin to account for all the lower level grade schools for the classes she assists.

Deciding how she is going to move forward with both school and dance is such a struggle for me as a parent. There are so many factors involved and things to consider. Seeing experts saying that the virus is airborne but not seeing practices and policies that fit that reality makes it even harder to make those decisions.

I say all of this as a parent, but I cannot imagine being in the position of a teacher at this point. As a parent, I’m only trying to make decisions that protect my children and in turn the rest of our family to the best of my ability. Teachers are being asked to make so many, even more complex decisions.

Go to work and potentially bring home the virus to your own children and family or even take it to work and spread it to your students. Or just as awful an option, do what you may feel is right to protect your own family from the virus and not work, but then not have the money to protect them in other ways.

I saw something written by a teacher (sorry, I don’t have the link for that one) where they said they were not only expected to take a bullet for their students, but were now being asked to bring that bullet home and aim it at their families.

Our teachers are already tasked with so many roles outside of just being an educator, but we continually ask them to take on more and more roles. It seems that each one is just more difficult, even more dangerous, than the last. This situation just shines a neon spotlight on that fact.

As a parent, you have to think about all of those aspects and filter them down into something you can work with to make the right choices for you children, but there isn’t a lot of consistent information to help you filter it down.

And in the middle of trying to filter all of that, I hear how a friend of MC went to a graduation party where someone had later tested positive. Said friend had also had a test done, but only because their boss required it (they work in a restaurant) and even then this person was still going about their day as if nothing had happened, interacting with people all before they even got the results back from their test.

This is followed shortly after by finding out that a coworker of Hubby’s (they are all still on a work from home mandate, thankfully!!) has been in quarantine for almost 2 weeks because his kids’ daycare was shutdown after an outbreak. Let me repeat that. A place specifically for young children was shut down because of an outbreak.

But we are STILL trying to force in person classes. What are parents and teachers supposed to do with all that information when none of it fits together in any kind of rational manner?!

One of the most driving forces in being a parent is to protect our children to the best of our ability. Right now, it feels like we are being forced to do the exact opposite.

I am grateful that BG will be able to do her classes online, at least for her first semester. I hate that she may not be able to get the classes she really wants because of that, but in the balance of things, I’ll take that little loss. I have a lot of thinking to do about dance because that is a very different beast, one that falls squarely in the mental wellness category for her.

I am also being forced to consider asking MC to not come home from college as he wants in an effort to keep everyone safe. How do you tell your child who is leaving to go to college for the first time to not come home when you live 20 minutes away? All because The Powers That BE demanded he live on campus and attend some in person classes.

To say that there is a whole lot of frustration and anger tied up in this is the understatement of the century.

 

 

Overboard?

What started out as a plan to get some good shots of MC in his cap and gown, especially now that he isn’t going to participate in the actual ceremony, turned into a multi-hour, full blown senior portrait session.

Oops!

Or not.

I now have dozens of some of the best photos of MC ever taken. I’m just absolutely blown away at how stunning these turned out.

It was also the first time I’d ever attempted a full on portrait session like this with lighting and backdrop and everything. I caved and got the set up because I found I could get these pieces for relatively cheap in comparison to the cost of a session with a professional photographer. I also figured I’d find ways to make use of it all over the years.

It was worth every single dime I spent on it.

Unfortunately, that means I now have to go through all those amazing photos and narrow it down to the few I want to get printed to put in an album for MC. Talk about trying to accomplish the impossible.

*ETA… While I won’t share a photo of MC, I can share this cropped image of him holding our cat Cleo who decided to investigate what was going on.

Our Cleo Kitty
Our Cleo Kitty

Pale Pink Rose Of Sharon

This one is not one of the best of the bunch, but still pretty. There may be a few of those for the next several days thanks to my seemingly epic talent of managing to hurt myself while essentially sitting still.

I still don’t know what exactly is off, but I’ve done something that makes pretty much all movement and non-movement painful. Even breathing. Breathing is painful. How did I pull off this miraculous feat?

By sitting at my sewing machine.

That’s it. No weird movement. No falling out of my chair. Just sitting. Bent over my machine working on more masks. It takes some serious skills to pull that off, ya know!

I had a slightly sore back after sitting and making those nearly 60 dance masks over a couple day period, a longer time period than I’ve done the last several days, but that is all it was. Just a little sore and achy. I do 12 for MC, pretty much the exact same thing I did before, and I manage to mess something up so bad that any movement and even just sitting still if I’m not in the exact right position makes me want to cry.

I honestly cannot figure out why or what I did so I’m just going with the fact that I have discovered an amazing new talent. The kind of amazing no one wants any part of, but… hey! It’s AMAZING!

I’d offer to spread that amazing by sharing it with you so you could experience being amazing too, but I’m not that mean. Or would that be selfish if I don’t want to share?

See what happens when I’m running on no sleep? All the stupid starts to just slip out.

But, hey! MC has masks to take to campus when he moves!

Surreal Back To School Mode

Things are starting to enter back to school mode around here even though I’m still not certain what exactly that is going to look like yet.

MC will be moving into a dorm in about a month, barring any changes that are still incredibly likely. Because of his dorm set up, there is actually very little he is going to need. It will be almost like packing for vacation instead of him actually moving out. That is also in part because he will only be 20 minutes from home and it is easy enough for him to run by and grab something if he needs it. It really isn’t anything at all like I expected him going off to college would be like.

We found out that over half of his classes will be online and the other half will be a blend of online and in person with the in person portion being limited. Even with that set up, he is still required to live on campus.

It is hard enough to see your kid off to college for the first time, but dumping that together with the current mess with the pandemic and I know I’m going to be a stressed out mess over the next several weeks. I just started breathing easier after the recital stress, so I’m not a complete mess just yet, but that reprieve isn’t going to last long.

There still isn’t a solid plan yet for BG’s school. The one thing that has been decided is that if they opt for in person or blended online and in person classes, students can opt out of in person and do online only. That was such a massive relief to me to know that she wouldn’t be forced to physically go to school.

She has some concerns about potentially missing out on important information in her AP or higher level classes if they have in person classes, that a teacher would fail to pass on the same info to the online students as was shared during a physical class. Even with that concern, she is solid in her stance on doing online.

The online option for her means I don’t have to make another dozen or so masks to get her through a school week. I do have to make a bunch for MC as he has left the house maybe 3 or 4 times since March and only has 1.

This is the oddest back to school season. I knew it would be anyway because of MC heading to college and not high school, but… yeah.

It’s doubtful that once we hit the point where they are both in school that my stress levels are going to drop. Having MC going back and forth from school to home could be a problem. Not by increasing his exposure, but by increasing BG’s, Hubby’s, and mine. That and I’m going to be normal-worried-mom times a thousand the second he is dropped off.

I’m not sure how we are going to work all the logistics of this yet. At this point, I’m still certain that something major is going to change between now and then.

The one worry I don’t have at the moment is with Hubby. He is still on an indefinite work from home order that will most likely last until at least the end of this year. I’ll take whatever wins I can get at this point.

 

 

Another Proud Mamma Moment

MC got his test scores for his AP calc class and nailed another 5. Somewhere along the lines he also managed to pull another small scholarship. My kid is nailing college and he hasn’t even started it yet.

This is yet another amazing moment one of my kids have made happen with so very little help from anyone. I’m just going to bask in the awesome for a while.

Reflections In The Aftermath

And we are done! And I’m am so relieved.

I still have so many conflicting emotions and thoughts about this dance recital and I’ve spent a chunk of the day so far trying to decompress and sort them all out, but I don’t know that it is entirely possible. One of the thoughts that keeps cropping to the top is “Am I going to regret this?”

So much about this event bothered me. Once things started being allowed to open up again and “going back to normal” I had my concerns about how this was going to play out. When they announced the mandatory mask rule and social distancing guidelines for our city, a lot of those concerns were relieved and I felt better about letting BG participate, though I still did not feel great.

The time Hubby, BG and I all spent talking about this and deciding that the risk was low because of those changes and our current area’s case counts seems to have been worthless. We were evaluating the risks based on those changes, but I saw most of those rules completely disregarded and ignored over the course of the last two days.

I don’t want to constantly harp on this stuff, but it is impossible not to. This event was HUGE. The exception the city gave to allow no masks on stage made the rule for backstage pointless, not that it was even observed in the first place.

If you were to only look at the surface of this event, it was a wonderful success and many parents along with studio staff are counting it as such. But you cannot look at it without the lens of the current pandemic in place.

I’m really worried that this will be one of those epicenter events in this city because of the lack of actual adherence to the rules and regulations. I wonder if health department officials saw even a handful of the photos being posted on social media by all these proud parents (and I’m included in that number) what their thoughts would be. Not just on this event, which turns out to have been the very first public event in the city since things started shutting down, but on all future events.

Because from a safe practice standpoint in the middle of a pandemic, I seriously doubt you could count this as a huge success.

There were supposedly people on site that were there to enforce the regulations, but I didn’t see any evidence of that. Two days worth of packed dressing rooms and back stage areas, nearly a thousand kids from pre-K all the way up to high school seniors (spread out between those 5 shows) and dozens of staff and faculty, all passing and interacting in those close quarters for hours, all without masks on, all without any kind of social distancing.

Seeing it for a second day in a row, with even less adherence to those rules the second day, I was really bothered by the whole thing. It felt like a whole lot of lip service being paid to get this approved to happen, but that is all it was. There were zero actions to back those rules up. Especially when you see the massive numbers of photos of students together in groups or with staff, smashing their cheeks together to get those memorable shots, because you just can’t have a recital without those sweet moments (insert maximum sarcasm here).

I just simply do not understand the mindset where any of that is okay right now.

It makes how I felt about BG’s mask stance yesterday even more profound. I debated doing my usual posting of photos and tagging the studio at first. Then I realized that I was worried about how other parents and families might react to all these photos of her and her mask and that by hesitating, I was dishonoring her courage and strength. I was the one having my actions intimidated by the pressure to go with the crowd and I wasn’t going to do that after what BG was able to do. I know we are very much in the minority when it comes to feelings about this event, but I refused to do anything other than stand proudly with my daughter on this, so I posted the hell out of those photos.

At the same time, I think we were just part of the problem and I wonder if I should have taken BG’s stance to heart and just asked her not to participate at all. We did give her the choice, but I wonder if maybe she was just hoping we’d tell her she couldn’t. I loved seeing her dance, but I still don’t know that it was worth it. I just don’t know.

The next several weeks are going to be intense while we wait to see what happens. Numbers don’t lie and infection rates would say that there were, at minimum, at least a large handful people infected in that venue at some point in the last two days, if not a whole lot more. With the number of people in attendance, the number of dancers and all the poor safe practices actually being observed, I worry what the outcome will be. We will be watching our own heath very closely and sticking as close to home as possible while we do so.

Even after this, the studio’s summer workshop is still scheduled to start 3 weeks from now and fall registration begins around then as well. We are NOT at a business as usual point with all of this, but that is how it seems everyone wants to behave.

To top off my level of bittersweet pride in my amazing kids, I have MC. Now that his high school has presented their final plans for an in person graduation ceremony, he has opted not to participate. He will not walk with his class.

Why? He will be at the start of his prep time for attending his college in the fall and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that process. He is content with the only acknowledgement of his hard work and amazing grades in high school being his scholarship to college. He doesn’t feel the need to do the whole ceremony and walk just because it is the thing that is done.

This is what he wants and it is important to him, so we are absolutely going to stand with him and support that. Even if it means he is the second of my kids I don’t get to see walk across the stage since OC didn’t graduate. I’m still proud that he is, like BG, willing to stick by what he feels is important even if it means it isn’t the popular thing.

I have the most amazing kids and I don’t think it is possible to feel more proud of them both.

Please excuse me if I’m an emotional mess for a while. There are only so many directions those can be pulled at the same time before something has to give. I think I’m just going to go bury my head and have a good cry for a while just to relive the pressure.

 

 

Titanium Will

I’m kind of an emotional basket case today.

My daughter has a will and a spine of pure titanium. I cannot express strongly enough how amazed and proud I am of her.

Over a period of 12 hours. Through 5 shows and 75 total performances, 17 of which were hers. She was the ONLY ONE to wear a mask on stage to dance. The only exception to this were the handful of assistants that had to be on stage with the younger girls and were required to wear one.

The. Only. One.

Every single time she stepped on stage with her class and she was the only one wearing a mask, I got so choked up and struggled not to cry. For so many reasons.

I’m proud of her for standing her ground and doing what she felt was right. We allowed her to make this choice since masks weren’t required on stage. She chose to wear her mask. Even though no one else did. She made this choice over and over again. Even though it acted kind of like a spotlight on her and she hates to be the focus of attention like that.

I’m so sad that she was put in the position to stand alone in this. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see all her amazing expressions on her face while she danced. Her beautiful smile and her “Oh, crap!” moments when she made a mistake. It is always one of my favorite things about recital, but I don’t get it this year and I’m so okay with that, no matter how much I miss it.

I can’t even begin to express my frustration with all the surrounding stuff that I saw yesterday. The lack of concern or adherence to rules put in place for safety. And there was so much of it.

I still can’t say that any of this was worth it even though I loved that she got to dance. I have another day to go where I get to watch and feel this dichotomy of emotions. Happy and frustrated and sad and worried. And proud. So damn proud.

I am blown away by my daughter and her dedication and willingness to stick with what she feels is the right thing no matter if she is standing alone in that conviction.

Realization

This is BG’s 10th dance recital and it is the first time that I haven’t been in the audience for every single moment she is on stage. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to know she is up there dancing and I can’t watch her.

I understand the need to keep the audience sizes down and they needed to do it this way to achieve that. It still makes me sad that I’m missing parts. Yes, they are parts she will perform again when it is our turn to be able to watch, but I’ve never missed a chance to see her dance.

It didn’t really hit until the studio started posting snippets of videos and photos on their FB page. It is going to be a long few hours until I get to watch my girl be amazing.

 

Gerbera Daisy: Last Year

Sharing this one from last year because I’m almost ready to have new pics again this year.

I’m in mask mode today trying to finish up the 58 I have pinned and ready to sew. I have 60 in all, but two of those were tests to make sure they’d work. After the first one, I yet again modified my design to try and make it even better than the original. I will have pics of these because they look amazing and are going to be beautiful with the opening tap costume. At least for those that opt to wear one.

BG is hanging on the edge of that right now, even knowing there is a very real chance she will be the only one on stage wearing a mask. I’m really proud of her for taking this seriously and really thinking about it.

I brought up the fact to her that I completely forgot about her flowers that I do every year because I was so caught up in the mask thing. She said she really didn’t want flowers this year because she didn’t want anyone making an unnecessary trip to the store just for flowers. It makes me sad, but she is adamant that this is something she wants to not do this year. Again, I’m proud of the fact that she is thinking beyond what is right in front of her right now.

I still have so many thoughts and concerns about the whole thing, but it is only days away and I don’t see it not happening at this point, so it is do the best we have with what we’ve got. And why I’m in mask mode again.

Off to sew my fingers to the bone. Please keep all digits crossed and ask the karma gods to be nice to me today so that I don’t break the remaining 6 needles I have for my machine that replacement needles are no longer made for, at least not until I can finish! I really do not want to have to get a new sewing machine today.

Another Day, New Chaos

The last couple of weeks have felt like I’ve been going constantly. Between projects I needed to get done, like the garage, and all the running to get BG to the studio and all the things that are wrapped up in nearing recital time, it seems like I’ve had very little down time. Doesn’t look like that is changing for at least a little while.

The new mask mandate from the city means that masks are required for BG’s dance recital. I’m still not 100% how exactly that is going to work, though it should seem very straight forward. I knew that the studio staff was going to be stressing about it, especially the visual of masks on stage.

I’ve offered to make masks for all the girls in opening tap that match their costumes. That is about 55 additional masks. I’d love to do enough for all the staff and assistants for the assistants dance as well, but I just won’t have the time for that many. I’ll be pushing the time frame as it is to get these done.

The teacher was a little stunned by my offer and more the willing to take it. It will give them at least one performance, their big one, where everyone on stage has the same look, something that will be impossible to pull off for every single other performance. Even though they will match the costume for that performance, they will still be basic enough to look really good with all their other costumes as well.

As with the masks I made for the staff earlier, it is kind of a selfish motivation. If I can get as many of these kids wearing masks as I can, it helps to protect my own kid and also helps to make her not feel like she stands out as the only one.

There is apparently still some question, despite the mask mandate, as to whether they are required while the dancers are on stage. The audience and everyone backstage, absolutely. On stage? There is some belief that it isn’t. I’m not sure how that works out as far as justification goes. Because of that, there is a chance that my efforts will be for nothing as the dancers will then be allowed a choice. If the classes I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks are any indication, I doubt there will be anyone on stage with a mask.

I’m still doing it anyway. Just in case. And as an encouragement. Anything at all to try and help.

Besides, everything could change in another week. Or day.

We’ve also got the official word that MC will be staying on campus this fall. They’ve made changes to the housing plans so that he will have his own bedroom and bathroom, but will still be sharing a living space with another student.

He has to follow a plan for a couple of weeks before going to campus to monitor his health and then he has to be tested before being allowed in his room. I have no idea what that means once he is on campus. Will they not be allowing students to leave at all once they are there? I don’t really know how they can control that or ensure that students don’t do something that could expose them and bring it back to campus.

I’m really surprised by it all. This school already has a large online presence, so I’m a little baffled by their push for not only in person classes but the requirement to stay on campus. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice in the matter as MC’s scholarship has a requirement that he live on campus his freshman year.

I’m really not taking anything as definitive at this point, but I’m trying to think ahead, just in case.

The upside to finding out MC will be on campus is that he has already gotten the name and contact information of his roommate and has already reached out. So far, they don’t have a lot in common other than they both play a particular video game. MC was a little surprised they paired him with a nursing student and not another computer science student, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it.

As of right now, we’ve gotten no communication from BG’s school with regards to going back in the fall, so that one is still very much an unknown. Even with all of this, I know that tomorrow may change it all, so whatever plans are in place are far from concrete.

I guess the big downside to living in an area that still has really low case numbers is that so many things still want to move forward like nothing is going on. It gives people a false sense of security or feeling of immunity. That doesn’t even take into account the anti-mask crowd and their attitudes.

I have no clue what it is actually going to look like in two weeks when we attempt to have this recital. The social distancing plan for the audience is still very much in place as is the dressing room assignments, though masks are now also required. For that, I’m hugely relieved, though I would not want to be in the position to have to attempt to enforce that rule.

For now, I’m back in mask making mode and thinking ahead to what kinds of things I will need to have in place if MC does actually end up on campus this fall.

 

End Of The Day

Dance picture day yesterday turned into “take all the pictures” day.

I always take photos of BG in her costumes at home, or as much as I can without making her change a billion times. For the first time, she allowed me to also take some outside the studio where they have their dancer silhouette on the wall. It is the standard parent kind of shot, but she’s never let me get one before, so I was really excited to finally be able to.

And, DAMN!! Those are some of the best photos I’ve take of her. I’m talking, a couple of them at least, look like the kind of shots you’d see on a magazine cover. It makes me so damn tempted to break my “no photos of the kids” rule here on my blog just to share it.

It helps that two of the costumes in those photos are some of my favorite ever, the top one being the costume for opening tap this year. It is this phenomenal get up and she absolutely rocks the hell out of it. I cannot get over how stunning she looks in it. He teacher even stole the image (with permission) and posted it on the studio’s page because it is so classic for the look and feel they try to get with that performance.

Since I was already deep into photo mode, I was keeping a close eye on the weather and lighting as I still had another set of photos MC wanted me to take to include in his “senior photo package” we’ve been working on. Shockingly, everything came together and we had a gorgeous evening with a long golden hour that was absolutely perfect.

I dragged both him and BG out because I also wanted to try and get a good one of the two of them together and we spent probably an hour taking photos. I took nearly 400 pictures in all yesterday (and no, they weren’t all good, not by a long shot) and, I think, managed to finish up the pictures that MC wanted. Hopefully. I did also manage to get a couple of really good ones of the two of them together so I have some new photos for my family photo walls.

Of course, because I was already there and the sky was gorgeous, I made them wait just a little longer after we were done before we could go home so I could grab a couple of sunset shots as well.

MC made it abundantly clear that he would prefer that if I had my camera nearby that someone else should be in the driver’s seat of the car because I spend as much time trying to see what’s going on with the sky as I do the road. He was teasing, but… he also isn’t entirely wrong. It is such a joy to drive with two newish driving teenagers in the car pointing out every single thing you do that isn’t strictly by the book.

In all, it was a great day. BG got her dance photos out of the way (I nailed the car dressing room perfectly). I was able to finish up with MC’s photos and got a few fun ones of my own along the way.

Of course, it was also a typical roulette wheel of “What New Random Loop Is Going To Get Thrown At You Today” kind of day as well because our mayor announced a mandatory mask requirement for all indoor public spaces (with a few strict exceptions) that is going to last for at least the next couple of weeks. This covers the time frame for recital, so I have zero clue how the studio is going to work that one out as it includes the dancers on stage.

I’m in “wait and see” mode again, but I still have to make sure she has everything that she needs, including new tights and a few extra small things. It is so odd waiting on things I ordered knowing there is a high chance they won’t be used, at least not this year. We may hear more today when she goes to the studio for her last ballet class before recital.

At least I have pictures!

Where’s The Line?

Have you ever done something that you’ve really heavily invested in, be it money or time and effort, and just kept having things go wrong? There comes a point where you have to decide to either just scrap that investment and move on or keep dumping into it hoping things will eventually fall into place. When do you find that breaking point where you scrap it all? Do you ever?

This is where I feel BG’s dance studio is at. Sort of. It is so damn complicated.

I’ve mentioned before what a normal year looks like. Two large shows with both a dress rehearsal night and a recital night. Prior to that is the excitement of getting costumes and having a big event with picture days. All of this after lots of class hours in the studio learning the routines.

This is so not a normal year, obviously. Apparently, it isn’t all because of the virus and issues radiated out from that, either.

We learned yesterday that a second costume BG was supposed to get, her assistants’ costume, is different than what they initially ordered. This is the third one that I’m aware of at the studio and BG gets two of them. The first one that got changed, the ballet costume, is… just not like anything they would normally get. I won’t say it is awful, because it really isn’t. It is just really plain and basic and that isn’t a direction they go in choosing costumes. It was kind of a disappointment to pretty much every single girl. We don’t find out until Sunday what the assistant costumes look like.

I’d heard that this may just be a problem with the vendor in general that was an issue before things started shutting down and not even directly related to the virus.

They scrapped the costume entirely for hip hop early on and are just going with a t-shirt and the girls will wear their own dance pants instead.

Those 2 shows are now 5 and only parents of the kids in the classes for that specific show, not counting the girls that do opening tap and assistants (they have their own show and BG is one of those), are allowed to attend that show. Normally anyone can go to any show and it isn’t a problem. They have had to resort to issuing tickets and limiting each family to 4 to ensure that they can keep the people in the audience distanced. Because of that, we cannot be at all 5 shows that BG dances in, only her one assigned show, making us scramble to figure out the logistics of it all when normally I’d just go and be at the venue the entire time.

That requires a whole other host of problems that cropped up in the issuing of those tickets. Even with them doing all the numbers and leg work to make sure every family had the opportunity to get seats and still have extra room, a few of those shows still “sold out” (they are not charging for these tickets, it is only a reservation kind of thing) leaving some families unable to get seats. I don’t know if that is because there was some sort of glitch in their system or if some families just refused to follow the rules. I’m leaning toward a little bit of both.

They have had to scrap the usual class group photos for their picture day and are only doing individuals, of which we had to schedule appointments for each photo (one for each costume) and they cannot change at the studio. I have a makeshift dressing room set up in the back of my car so BG can change without us having to drive back and forth between the studio and home a dozen times.

These are just some of the more out there and obvious things that I personally know about. I won’t even get into the lack of mask wearing by a very large majority of the kids in the classes, a majority that grows with the age of the class apparently (meaning BG’s class has her and maybe one or two other girls that actually follow this rule) or the number of places I’ve heard of kids traveling, including out of the country and to states with high case numbers, and yet are still planning on returning to class as soon as they get back.

I cannot even begin to fathom all the time and money (at the very least, the cost of the extra costumes, but I know is actually so much more) they have invested in this. I’m absolutely certain that if this were just about any other studio, this would have been canceled when they couldn’t hit their original recital dates. I truly admire and appreciate every last bit of the effort they are making for all of these kids.

But…

Sometimes you really have to stop and wonder if the Universe isn’t trying to tell you something. I am pretty certain they feel like they are past the point of no return with all they have done up to this point. I get it. I really wouldn’t want to be in their position.

Sadly, it isn’t even close to done yet. We still have a few weeks before the recital and case counts are going up. Our mayor is probably going to be issuing a mandatory mask rule in public spaces in the next couple of days.

It is such an ugly situation with no good solutions. I am wondering how worth it is going to be in the end when the result is so very unlike what it would have been normally, especially if it is such a disappointment to so many people, like with the costumes. I don’t know that we are there just yet, but it is really starting to feel like it.

For today, I have to prep for pictures this afternoon and feel grateful I didn’t plan on getting a professional one of BG in her assistants’ costume because she doesn’t even have it yet. I’m still hanging by a thread on having her participate in the recital at this point. We’ve all discussed it and are watching the case counts and she is being a rock star at wearing her mask even when she feels so alone in doing so.

The closer we get, though, the more I really kind of wish they’d finally hit their breaking point and just throw in the towel. I also know that is so unlikely to happen unless it is mandated by health officials.

The stress from all of this is off the charts.

 

End Of An Era

Yesterday saw the official end to our annual haunted garage that we used to do every year for Halloween. Even though we didn’t actually put the walls up last Halloween and was the beginning of the end, it didn’t become official until yesterday. I took advantage of the beautifully cooler day and tore the walls apart.

Broken Down Halloween Walls
Broken Down Halloween Walls

Why is it that destruction is so much faster and easier to do than creating and building? What took me nearly an entire day or better to build was in pieces in about an hour.

It was sad to see these go. We had nearly 10 years of fun and wonder and joy doing the garage every year, but it was just time to be done. It was pretty shocking they even lasted that long considering they weren’t all that sturdy to begin with.

The kids are all older. MC hasn’t been interested in it for a few years now and BG, while perfectly content to dress up with me, just wasn’t nearly as excited about it anymore. It also lost some of it’s joy when the few kids we would get showing up just didn’t seem all that interested in it, some even going so far as to be that bratty kid that thought it was fun to mock and put it down.

Once I decided I definitely wasn’t doing this anymore, I was itching to get these taken apart and reclaim the area of the garage where these needed to be stored. Six 8 foot by 8 foot wall sections take up a crap ton of space. Especially when that space is used for all but maybe 2 days a year.

I spent the day yesterday breaking these down and then cleaning and rearranging the garage, a desperately needed project. I now have a wonderfully open and accessible garage that will hopefully stay that way for a while.

I also have a huge pile of wood I need to get creative with, which is going to be a challenge as most of those boards are really warped or even cracked in places. As of right now, I’m pondering the idea of making an outdoor storage box with most of it. I’ve yet to decide for sure.

While it was really sad to do this project, it was also a relief. It was always a lot of work, but also a whole lot of fun. The fun will be missed. All that work? Not one little bit.

Now to figure out what in the world I’m going to do with all the decorations we used in that haunted garage.

Getting Tied Into Knots

I’ve spent the last month or so being a little bit in awe over how far BG’s dance studio is willing to go to try and give these kids as much of a recital and celebration of all their hard work as they can while still attempting to maintain that balance of safety and required distancing. They have bent over backwards and twisted themselves into shapes resembling pretzels in an effort to try and pull off that incredibly fine line of balance.

They have put in hours and hours for each class and each teacher recording and uploading instructional videos so the kids could continue to learn their routines in preparation for being able to return to class. This often means more than one video for each individual dance. One for the slower, breakdown instruction of the steps and at least one more for the routine in time with the music. Often, it also means multiples of these as they are often done in segments. Many of those teachers also work other, full time jobs.

They have had to make major changes to choreography to eliminate any kind of pairing and contact, like hand holding, to work on maintaining distance between dancers. They’ve changed how they work within the studio so that there is more spacing between dancers, changed the timing of the classes to create gaps so the lobby isn’t overwhelmed and to give them time to sanitize between classes. They’ve implemented the requirement to wear masks and rules for being able to even attend in person classes.

We have now finished out our second week back and it has been… interesting, frustrating and a little shocking to see how it is all trying to unfold.

The studio has lost a large number of students for this last part of the year. I’m making assumptions, but this is in part because some parents have chosen to just not allow their child to participate because of the risk. Some because it is outside of their normal times and have other commitments (we are usually done by the end of May). I’m also certain that there are probably a few parents that refused to send their kid because of the mask requirement. It seems the younger the class, the fewer students came back. It looks like the older group that BG is in is mostly all there.

I have been absolutely floored by the varied responses to all of this, at least in the group that BG interacts with the most.

One is the very blase` attitude towards the mask rule. It is more of a paying lip service kind of thing than something that is respected. Inside the studio, masks are on only a portion of the time on a lot of the girls. Outside, the girls are still gathering in close groups and in cars with no masks at all.

Another is the same sort of attitude from a decent chunk of these kids with regards to actually respecting all the work the staff put into making all those videos. So many girls don’t know squat when it comes to the routines. Even routines they knew before everything closed have now been forgotten. BG was absolutely stunned at how many hadn’t even looked at a video in all the weeks they were away. Yes, there are a few legitimate excuses as to why (not having the access to the app or decent enough internet to view the videos) but that is only a small fraction of the whole. I could go on forever on all the ways this is a problem because there are so many parts to this, but I’m still blown away by it and even more impressed by BG’s dedication to making sure she went back to class fully prepared. I think she is a little impressed with herself because of it as well.

Did I mention that my girl has danced nearly every single day while she was away from the studio?

One of the things the studio prides itself on is making sure all routines and music are appropriate for the age of the dancers and the audience. With recent events being what they are, they determined that some of the music that was being used in the high school hip hop routine edged too close to potentially being insensitive so they’ve had to find other music to replace it and remix it all. They’ve attempted to do so in a why that allowed them to keep the choreography, but slight changes have had to be made.

They have also had to completely rework the schedule and layout of their normal recital. Instead of 2 shows, splitting the age groups, they have had to split it into 5 to attempt to keep the gathering sizes down. They also have to submit the dressing room assignments and layout to the city for approval to show they are meeting guidelines along with limiting family for each dancer to only 4 people.

The family limit creates an issue, so they’re working to get it live streamed so those that can’t be there can still watch. This includes purchasing new equipment.

There is just so much that they are doing to make sure this all moves forward. It is kind of blowing my mind how much effort they are putting into it. It has also got to be massively stressful and frustrating because it has caused all kinds of problems as well.

One of the teachers won’t be able to be at the studio for the rest of the season for personal reasons and the other teachers aren’t familiar with her routines. Routines that very few of the girls actually know and there is a whole host of issues with.

I found out yesterday that some of the costumes won’t be here in time for recital, including the one for BG’s ballet dance, a costume they had planned to use for multiple dances as one of the things they do to cut cost, wearing a skirt that belongs to the studio, isn’t something they can do this year. They have attempted to get something else that is supposed to arrive this week, but the original costumes have already been bought and paid for and this second costume is costing them.

I feel for the staff. They are doing everything they can, but… it is really kind of a giant cluster. I don’t envy the position they are in. It is costing them a lot of money they wouldn’t have normally had to spend (the extra costumes, the new equipment for streaming and for sanitizing the studio), costs that they aren’t passing to the families. They are in a position to be forced to decide whether or not they are going to police the dancers on masks and following the rules for being able to attend class (pretty sure one dancer just took a trip to Mexico).

I have wondered a few times why they are so persistent. I understand in a lot of ways why they would want to be, wanting to make sure they can honor all this hard work, especially for the seniors, but the reality of everything still makes me wonder. It is going to be so vastly different as it is right now. There is still a huge chance that this is all going to be canceled as the number of cases in our area are starting to climb, though we still have extremely low numbers in comparison.

I admire and really appreciate their hard work and effort. I really do. I’m also left questioning if this is all worth it. I’m questioning BG’s safety, though she is adamant about being safe in what she does, others really, REALLY aren’t. The short classes at the studio don’t bother me so much. The exceptionally long days, like yesterday where she is there for over half the day, and the actual dress rehearsal and recital, two days where she will be at the venue for nearly the entire day surrounded by these other kids, are such a huge concern for me.

I still don’t know what the studio’s expectations are regarding parents in my position that have a girl that is required to be in all 5 shows as far as audience attendance goes. I don’t like the idea of dropping her at the venue to be there all day and only attend the show that is specifically hers. I also don’t like the idea of spending these entire two days at the venue in the audience either.

I am so torn up and twisted about this whole thing. BG has even said that she almost wishes they would just cancel it. She doesn’t want to not have a recital, but she’s also stressed about it all. This is such a hard thing. I do understand a bit why they feel the need to keep going, but at the same time, I really don’t.

I can always just pull her. I’ve considered it, but I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. Also, she is 16 and should have a say and she hasn’t reached that point yet either. I’ve asked myself over and over what would need to happen to make me reach that point, but I still haven’t come up with an answer.

The recital is about a month away and a lot can change between now and then. In one way, I’m excited to see BG perform the dances she has worked her ass off to learn and to see her be a part of some of the traditional parts of this event for the first time. At the same time, I’m a stressed out, worried mess that wishes the whole thing would just get canceled.

 

 

 

Strawberry Season

The strawberry plants I bought for BG are putting on berries. She’s been able to pick probably a half dozen or so. Just enough for everyone to have a taste and for her to have a treat here and there.

Three plants won’t be enough to have a large batch, but she has been having a blast going out and checking every day to see if she has one ready to pick. It has been fun to watch her enjoy it and 3 plants in a pot is easy enough to take care of.

I should have enough lettuce and spinach for a salad or two soon as well. That has definitely been a learning experience. I really enjoy the idea of having a few things like this growing. I just need to figure out a better place than these pots if I want a few more next year.

I don’t want a full blown garden, but these little bits have been fun.

Black and White Drops and Ruffles

I had such a hard time deciding if I wanted to post this version or the color version because they are both amazing. So…

Peach Iris Coated In Rain
Peach Iris Coated In Rain

Yesterday went well for BG. She feels so much better about everything now that she knows how the new normal looks and runs at dance.

The masks were an absolute hit and cracked me up to no end. BG hadn’t been in the studio with them for 5 minutes when I see the owner walk out with one on. Less than a minute later the teacher for that class also walks out with hers on (all the students were greeted with hand sanitizer outside the doors of the studio before they were allowed in). It was funny and sweet and I’m over the moon thrilled that they are enjoying them.

Another upside was that all the kids going into the studio had their masks. The parents standing around socializing outside weren’t as good about keeping theirs on or keeping their distance, but it could have been so much worse.

The sad thing, and we don’t know yet what it means going forward, was that probably half or less of the class showed up. It is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the week pans out as this was the very first of all the classes back. I’m especially concerned about how many older girls will show and how that will impact routines and recital.

BG was absolutely stunned to find out that her assistant friends from last night had either not practiced AT ALL or only a tiny bit. My girl has been dancing nearly every single day. As soon as a video for one of her routines was posted, she added it to her schedule and started working on it.

It is going to make an already chaotic and different recital even more so.

In some non-dance news, I’m working on making some changes for me. I’m sure it has already been noticed that the book reviews have dwindled down to almost nothing. There are lots of parts to this and I may still work up a post about that, but for now, I’m stepping back from most of that, including writing them for Envie!

This blog has been and always will be a space for me to share the things that bring me joy with the occasional rant or emotional outpouring thrown in. When things start to feel like that isn’t the focus anymore, I’m going to make changes. It seems like now is one of those times. I’m still not 100% sure what all will be changing or how much. It may not even be all that noticeable because the photos will absolutely still be coming.

Life is so full of stress and frustration and uncertainty right now, the last thing I need is for my blog to add to that so I’m going to make sure it isn’t.

Iris, Honeysuckle, & Chaos

Okay, so there isn’t anything really special about this photo, but there is something about the color contrast of the honeysuckle bloom laying on that purple petal that just kind of grabs you. I just thought it was an interesting contrast of colors, especially because it was such an unintentional setup.

Today marks the beginning of the chaos that was originally supposed to start back in April. BG goes back to dance for the first time since early March. With that comes a whole lot of new chaos that wasn’t in the original plans.

Yes, she will still be at the studio 4 times a week. Yes she will still have her extra rehearsal times for her additional performances. Those parts were already in the plans. Now included is the requirement for ALL students, teachers, staff, pretty much anyone that sets foot in the studio to wear a mask.

Even that requirement has been changed once as it was originally just staff and assistants that were required and all other students were optional, but local ordinances changed, so they implemented those changes.

My part of that effort will be going with BG to class tonight. A total of 30 masks, the bulk of which are for the studio staff. The handful of others will go to her fellow assistants in the classes she shares. I would have loved to have made one for every single assistant at the studio, but that number is nearly 100 and doesn’t include the actual staff.

It is going to be extremely interesting to see how everything plays out from here. I cannot imagine being a teacher and trying to enforce the mask rule on kids that are not only dancing, but in each other’s presence for the first time in months. Especially those in the much younger grades.

It is also going to be really interesting to see what kind, if any, push back they get from parents for enforcing that rule.

The other part of the chaos is going to be how I handle her long days at the studio.

Normally, the days she is there for longer than an hour, I go back home. Now, classes have been slightly shortened to allow staff to do any sanitizing between classes and to try and minimize the surge of students passing each other through the lobby between classes. I’m not certain what this means for ballet days where BG already normally has an hour gap between as they have not said anything about those students needing to leave. If she has to leave the studio, it would mean I’d need to stay the entire 2 1/2 hours so she could come sit with me in the car for that gap. The 20 minute drive home makes it impractical to leave and come back.

To make that already confusing for those long days even more so, she has at least 2 where it is even longer because of extra rehearsals. The first one is this Saturday. She is supposed to be at the studio from 3:30 until 9, with 2 different breaks in between. One is that hour long break and the other is a 15 minute break.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do that day. The idea of sitting in the car for that long really doesn’t appeal and it’s not like I’m going to go hang out at a nearby restaurant or shop right now. I wasn’t doing it before and I’m certainly not doing it now. I still have time to come up with a plan, but I’m struggling.

I still have a whole lot of mixed feelings about all of this moving forward. Especially with recent events creating something of an outbreak bomb waiting to go off in the area. As of right now, all the numbers are still impossibly low, so that helps. I’m just not convinced it will stay that way and that the parents will act responsibly on sending their kids to classes.

The only thing I know for sure is that BG is as ready as is possible for her to be to go back. She still isn’t entirely comfortable with wearing a mask while dancing, but she has gotten used to it enough that I’m not worried it is going to set off an anxiety attack at the studio.

I’m also fully prepared to pack like I’m going on a trip with my camera, my computer and my tablet to ensure I can keep myself entertained. No matter how long I’m having to sit in the parking lot.

Thank goodness tonight will only be about an hour.

 

Purple Frills

We actually got some sun yesterday and today is promising to be stunning. All the windows are open and I’m planning on spending at least a part of the day out playing with my flowers. A much needed break from the last couple of days.

Yesterday was BG’s last day of school and I’m so glad this year is done for both of the kids now. She took her last test, which was her pre-calc final the day before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her break down so hard or so fast over anything school related, let alone math related since she started on the accelerated path in 6th grade with a small group of other students and were still expected to know what the 7th graders had already learned and the 6th graders had skipped.

There were so many pieces to the why behind it, but a HUGE part of that is that the material needed to do well on the test wasn’t covered well since the students went online and the prep for the test was almost non-existent. There are some questions over whether a graded test should have even been presented based on district guidelines for the remainder of this year, especially for those students not taking it as a dual credit.

She talked to friends in the same class that had other teachers that didn’t even come close to the issues she had, so I have a whole lot of questions behind what went on with her class. I’m even thinking the other students took a VERY different test as theirs was only a 90 minute test and hers was 3 frickin’ hours long.

In the end, she did well enough to maintain her A for the course, but she was not happy with her performance. This after hours of study and note taking, a process that normally makes any test taking she does a breeze. Of all the things to go sideways in the massive changes that happened this year, I cannot stand that this has potentially shaken her faith in her own ability to handle the higher level math classes, even if only by a fraction.

So, yeah. I’m thrilled they are done with school for the year. She did get some hugely positive news on the tail end of it, though. She was accepted into a mentor program through the school for the next year, so that helped to end her year on a better note.

Yesterday was also my day to try and prep her for going back to her dance classes. As an assistant, she will be required to wear a mask. It looks like it is optional for dancers, but I’m not giving her that option. To make this possible, I was working on a mask design for her.

She has some anxiety issues and, maybe, mild asthma (though we haven’t gotten a doctor to confirm either). Because of that, she sometimes feels like she is having a slightly hard time breathing. When she tried on one of my masks, she couldn’t tolerate the fabric against her nose. I had to brainstorm and get creative, but I came up with an option that worked. I just had to fine tune it.

It took a bulk of my day to change the pattern I had and work though the logistics, but I now have a prototype for the rest of the masks I need to make her. All fit a small, wire mesh “cup” that I’ve formed to fit her face and give her space between her nose and the fabric. I have more sewing to do on these than on the masks I made for Hubby and I, but it looks like it is going to work well. She is supposed to try it out while dancing and see if I need to make any tweaks.

One of the things I did was use an iron on paper and printed the dance studio’s logo on one side of the mask and their nickname on the other. I posted pictures of it on FB and now I have at least one of her teachers wanting one. After talking to BG, I think my mask making project just got ramped up.

It is so damn weird to know that the kids are officially out of school for the summer and yet I’m prepping her to go back to dance, which is usually doing recitals around this time of year.

Oh! I caved yesterday after having to restart my computer several times just to get my internet connection back and get the damn thing to even start up. I have a new computer on the way. It would be awesome for things to calm down for a while. Seriously.