Passing The Torch To The Next Generation

We have a lot of traditions around the holidays. The santa curtain is the first Christmas decoration to go up every year after Thanksgiving dinner once the dishes are done. Decorating is done the day after Thanksgiving. I get a nutcracker every year to add to my collection.

The nutcracker tradition started when I was 16 and I was given my first nutcracker by my parents for Christmas. The tradition has continued nearly every year since, with my parents and later Hubby and occasionally someone else giving me a nutcracker at Christmas. Needless to say, over 30 years later and my collection is LARGE.

A few years ago, Hubby decided that he needed to give it to me either when we were decorating for the holidays or, as happens WAY too often, as soon as it arrives, no matter when throughout the year he bought it. It is still always a surprise as I just never now when he is going to present me with that year’s nutcracker.

Hubby is also the one that morphed this tradition into a theme for the year. The nutcracker always reflects something significant from the year. Like the year he gave me a mountain climber/hiker one when we took a trip to Colorado or a Charles Dickens one the year I published my book. It is as much fun getting the nutcracker itself as it is seeing what theme he is going to pick for the year. It makes it fun when it is time to bring them all out for the season to see those themes and reflect on when I got them and why. There are stories for every one and the kids, especially BG, love to talk about them.

I’d decided a while ago when I saw how much BG loved this tradition, that I’d start her on her own tradition of nutcrackers when she turned 16. I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years and finally got to start it this year.

As often happens when we are decorating and putting out all the nutcrackers, Hubby slides downstairs and slips the box in next to one of the bins I was unpacking. The kids know he does this and MC saw this and waited for my reaction not knowing that this one wasn’t mine. BG was oblivious.

When I called her over and handed her the box, she was bit confused and asked me if Hubby had gotten me another new one (I already got mine this year). When I said no, this was hers so she could start her own collection… her face!! The utter shock was just over the top. It is hard to really surprise her and she had no idea I was planning this.

Then she absolutely lost it and started bawling her eyes out. I really didn’t expect that. I had expected her to be a little surprised, even excited to get her own nutcracker, but she was just so emotional about it I was floored. I had no idea just how much doing this would mean to her which made this all the more special.

We were both a bit of a blubbery mess for a few minutes. Then I lost my helper as she took off upstairs to make a space in her room to set him up in a place of honor.

Following tradition, hers is somewhat themed in that it matches this year’s pointe costume almost perfectly with the pinks and golds. The fact that it also has a ballerina with it is kind of icing on the perfect cake.

The photo is of her very first nutcracker (on the left) next to my first ever nutcracker (right). While I will still be getting my nutcrackers, I’ve passed the tradition down to my girl this year. I never could have anticipated how much this means to her, so I’m overjoyed that I get to share this with her.

It is moments like this that I love the most. These little points that make up our stories and the pieces that stick with us for a lifetime. Now she is going to have her own physical story reminders she will get to unpack for years to come.

My Chicks Are All Home In The Nest

I just got done unloading MC back at home until at least after the first of the year. He will be home for the remainder of his first semester at college and, fingers crossed, hopefully all of next semester as well.

We’ve moved all his stuff back home to be on the safe side and to avoid needing to go to campus after Thanksgiving to pick stuff up if they do determine he doesn’t need to live in a dorm next semester. If he does, we will just do like we did to get his stuff home and bring it in batches. He isn’t a “stuff” kind of guy, so there wasn’t a ton.

So many things around here have changed in the last few days. A lot of things are being forced back into all virtual or reduced capacity and gathering limits. As usual, this was lead by our mayor and not our governor. I’m grateful that our city government sees how important these things are for everyone.

This doesn’t do much to impact BG’s schedule much. Her dance will go online for 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, but they’ve not said anything at all about their Christmas program. I’m still standing firm on my position that if they attempt to do so with masks being optional, she will not be participating.

It is my fervent hope that people in this country will abide by the CDC’s new recommendations for no travel over Thanksgiving. That people will stay home and pick up the phone or do a zoom call with their distant family and loved ones instead. That they can find peace in knowing they did their part to ensure everyone’s family is still there for them next Thanksgiving.

For us, we are officially hunkered down for a while in our little nest. I’m a happily relieved momma to know that my chicks are home and safe.

Home For The Holidays

I was given this year’s nutcracker last night! Hubby had started giving them to me early so I could enjoy them the whole season. Some years I get them earlier than others because he cannot stand to hang on to it after he gets it. This showed up on the porch yesterday afternoon and it was sitting in my spot at the table for dinner last night. I loved what he picked for the theme this year.

So much is going to be different this holiday season, but I’m good with that.

I won’t be doing bake sale baking this year because there won’t be a bake sale. The organizers are still taking donations to be able to support the families they provide for through the holidays, but no one is in the office right now, so a bake sale isn’t feasible. Instead, we are going to donate what they normally make off my baked goodies to help make up the difference of what they’d get from the sale.

We are also holing up and not leaving again after this week. I have one more errand I have to take care of, then I’m going to do my best to not leave the house again until after the first of the year. Hubby will still take care of our essential shopping, but I won’t be leaving. I’m not taking any chances with a lowered or suppressed immune system.

We got all the pieces I need for my craft room project yesterday to paint the walls and install the floor. I figure that after the contractors are done, that is about all I’d be able to get done until after the first of the year and will keep me from needing to leave to get any supplies.

I have my fingers crossed that our local government actually implements the health department recommendations of no gatherings larger than 10 as that will mean I don’t have to make the decision to keep BG from participating in her Christmas dance performances. The studio has put us in another awkward position as parents because they said they were going to make masks optional for the performances. They are live streaming them instead of having families come to the studio, but I think making it mask optional is recklessly stupid and I’m leaning towards keeping BG out because of that (and many other factors as well).

The last piece that is up in the air on our total stay at home for the holidays plan is what MC’s school is going to do. We know that they are not required to come back to campus after the Thanksgiving break, but they still have not answered questions about his requirements to live on campus next semester, so I have no clue if we are moving him out of the dorms in the next couple of weeks or not.

Staying home also means no big meal with Hubby’s dad and sister. For either Thanksgiving or Christmas. We haven’t seen either one of them since February other than Hubby taking care of a few critical appointments with my FIL, but we are all in agreement that we need to do this.

I am planning on fixing a full Thanksgiving dinner to take out and drop off with them the day before. The whole family will go, but we will only stay outside and just long enough to drop it off and leave. I will probably also do something similar for Christmas. At least he will get a nice, home cooked meal that way even if we can’t spend any time together. That is the best we can do right now. It helps to make sure that EVERYONE is still around for next holiday season.

And just to give you a visual reminder….

Intubation Graphic
Intubation Graphic

 

What’s Left At The End Of The Day

It is difficult not to be exceptionally angry today. I’m angry at the ignorance and the unwillingness of those that are supposed to be in charge to actually DO something productive.

Yes, I could be talking on the larger scale as that absolutely applies as well, but I’m talking a little lower down the power rung. Our idiotic governor, who just got reelected, much to my horror, just put out a decision stating that as long as masks are worn properly at the time of exposure, schools no longer need to issue quarantines for those that might have been exposed.

What the ever loving fuck?!

The same day, one major university announced they were going full virtual after Thanksgiving and a local high school was also having to go all virtual because of the number of cases. But the brain trust in charge of our entire state decided, against ALL CDC and health department recommendations, that quarantines are no longer needed.

This was immediately followed by our mayor stating that our city would not be following those guidelines. Sadly, BG’s school district isn’t inside the city limits and aren’t bound by city rules. They did put out a statement that they will be considering what this means for them and give more information later.

It is hard enough to send her to the school to take her proctored exams as it is. Knowing she will be going if the school follows our governor’s guidelines pisses me off. I have her doing online for a reason.

This also makes it significantly more concerning to send her to dance because there are SO many school districts represented at the studio and I have no way of knowing which schools will be following those guidelines and which ones won’t.

I am sick to death of people that don’t know squat thinking they know more than the experts and putting so many people at risk. I simply do not understand whatever twisted rationale they used to make such a stupid, risky decision.  Schools are already having a hard enough time with outbreaks, but this dipshit thinks this is a good idea and that things will be better?

Oh, and this is the same dipshit that cut funding for schools in the spring.

The only mitigating factor in this at all is that, so far, our district has followed city guidelines for the most part. It is still going to impact so many other areas of my state, though. So many people are going to die because there is an idiot at the helm who refuses to listen to the real doctors with real experience and the CDC and the health departments. You know, the ones who’s jobs it is to know this stuff.

School Heading Into Fall And Winter

Up until recently, I’ve been mostly happy with the school situation with both BG doing her junior year remotely and MC being nearly all remote for his freshman year of college, but still being required to be in his dorm.

Ideally, I’d still prefer MC do be able to do his part from home, but I’ve been really pleased with how his school has handled things. So far, there have not been any cases on campus, which is kind of shocking. They are being told that they are not required to come back to campus after their Thanksgiving break because of concerns of students getting together with families over the holidays.

I think there are plans to go full virtual after the new year, but I don’t think they’ve confirmed those plans yet or how that will impact those students like MC that have the campus requirement for their scholarships.

With BG, I’ve been more than thrilled with her being virtual. She mostly prefers it that way, but has run into a few bumps and frustrations, mostly with a less than organized teacher that has extremely poor communication skills and never answers emails. There is most likely going to be the option to choose virtual again for next semester and she will absolutely be taking that option when it finally comes up.

The problem I am having is that she is still required to go to the school for some of her tests since they are for her AP classes and have to be monitored. This wouldn’t bother me nearly so much if I weren’t now getting a daily email of yet another positive test case at the school and I wasn’t also aware that it is absolutely possible to proctor an exam virtually as MC has done that for all of his online only courses.

We had reasons to choose the online only option. We made that decision after carefully considering all the different pieces and risk factors involved and determined it would be better for all of us if BG did the online only option. Yes, she has a risk through dance, but those factors were less of a risk than the school (fewer contact points, less time, better environmental factors) and some social interaction is important.

I strongly dislike the fact that she is still required to increase her exposure risk by going into the school building and sitting in a classroom with other students and a teacher going between two different classrooms of different students in the process when there are other options. I am even more upset now that there are beginning to be so many cases in our district, yet they are still requiring this in person testing.

It is already becoming a problem as some students that were in person and may have been in contact with a positive test case are forced to quarantine and cannot be in the school at all until they are out of quarantine, so they can’t take those tests until later, which kind of goes against some of the protections and reasons they require these tests be proctored.

I get it. This is unprecedented and these teachers and administrators are treading brand new ground and don’t have any kind of playbook to follow. I do think that some of these teachers have done a stellar job, going above and beyond to educate these kids (BG has a couple that she absolutely adores and so does MC). I do understand that we are probably more fortunate than a lot of others as I’ve seen some really awful stories about other people’s experiences. At the same time, sometimes I really wonder if some are ever actually thinking or if they just truly don’t have a clue.

Sadly, I think we are at a point here, or at least very close to it, where more and more students are going to be forced to go online (possibly even completely), so it is only going to get worse and I don’t know that our district or teachers are actually prepared for that.

Meandering Path

We went for a walk and a drive around this weekend. The hope was that the trees were in full color and to get some photos. Of course, where I live, we don’t really get a “full color” like you’d see in other areas. We sort of get stages.

One week may be the yellow trees. Another week or two later, after those leaves have already fallen, you might get a red or an orange popping up here and there (though we don’t have a lot of those). It just seems like we can’t manage to get all the colors to line up at the same time, though every once in a great while, the trees will put on an amazing show, but it may only last for a day or two.

Right now, we are still way more green than I expected based on the trees in my neighborhood. There are some yellows that are already quickly turning to brown and the rare splash of orange peeking through, but not much else.

It was still nice to get out. I managed to, of course, get some photos of the kids being the absolute goofballs they are. I’d wanted some nice shots, but I’m just going to be grateful that both of them still want to go and do those things with us.

Today I’ve got Misogyny guy coming out to give me a bid. I honestly don’t know what I’m hoping for at this point. I do really want to get at least one more figure for how much this plan might cost me. I’d kind of love for that whole conversation to have just been an honest mistake and the guy is a decent guy that I’d consider working with. Based on the luck I’ve had so far, I’m not holding my breath for it.

I can dream, though, right?

Popping Color

Popping Color

This is my only mum that is opening enough to show color yet, but it is just loaded. I’m still on edge hoping we don’t get an early freeze and I get plenty of time to enjoy these this year.

MC is breezing through his first semester at college. For some reason, his history class was a shorter one than a regular class and he is already taking his final for that one next week. It will leave the last half of his semester more open.

It shouldn’t surprise me that he is doing so well because he always has when it comes to school, but I guess I still expected it to be a bit more challenging for him than this has seemed. Maybe it is just these earlier, more basic classes and next semester will be different, but I’m really happy for him that it is going so well.

He has impressed his computer programing teacher enough to get recommended for a work study program even though he isn’t even finished with his first class. He, unfortunately, can’t take it as a paid position because of the rules around family income, but they are looking into the possibility he can still do it on a volunteer/unpaid basis.

I think it was either from the same teacher or a math teacher, but MC was told he should become a tutor, but he can’t do that one until he passes a class he is currently taking with a certain grade (that won’t be an issue at this point). Apparently, he is making a good impression on at least some of his teachers.

While he loves that these are going to be things he gets to do, he is also excited that he has the chance to put these, plus his work with the videos for the eSports teams, on his resume. With his complete lack of any kind of work experience going into college (long story about bad timing and circumstances), he has been worried that he isn’t going to have much of anything to put down when he needs it and this is a relief for him.

I’m just glad that he is finding his space and the things he enjoys. It is exciting to see him get involved and enjoying what he is doing. I was a little worried the first couple of weeks in that he was struggling, but seeing all this makes me feel so much better. I really love that his college choice seems to be the perfect fit for him.

Now, BG is a whole other ball of wax. She is too much like me in not knowing what direction she wants to go when she gets out of high school. MC always knew he wanted to go into programming, but BG is all over the place in interests, so she doesn’t even know where to begin in her college search. I have a feeling her ride is going to be a lot bumpier than MC’s has been, but she is going to have to start making some decisions soon.

Driving Force

When you live in an area like mine with lots of distance between school and home and the stores along with almost no public transport, getting your driver’s license is one of those major milestones for a teenager. Both MC and BG had circumstances that pushed back their ability to take their test on or near their 16th birthdays, but they did finally get them.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to watch as BG drove off on her own for the first time, driving herself to her first assistant class of the year. Even though it was well past when she should have been able to do this (by the end of last winter), I still wasn’t quite ready for it.

I’m relieved that I no longer have to sit for an hour or more in my car in the parking lot while she does her dance classes. At the same time, I’m really going to miss the time we spent together along the way. It is just one more step towards her being grown up and gone.

It has been hard enough with MC off to college, even though he comes home almost every weekend. He is finding his feet there and settling in more comfortably. He’s volunteered to do the intro videos for all the esports teams, something he really loves and is excited about. He even played in an intramural tournament for one of the games over the weekend.

With BG driving now, she isn’t all that far behind him in stretching her own wings of independence.

Even though this is something that does make me sad, I’m still really happy for her. I remember what it was like to finally get to that point and it is something that both Hubby and I have worked really hard to make sure she got there. I was adamant that our kids would be able to drive as soon as possible and we would do whatever needed to be done to make that happen.

A big part of that is because when I needed to learn, I didn’t have that support and teaching. At least, not from my parents.

For me to get my license, I had to have my boyfriend at the time and his best friend taking me out and teaching me. Having someone that wasn’t yet even 18 teaching someone to drive is not really a great idea, but it is all I had.

This is something that I still, to this day, don’t fully understand. My older brother was learning before he was 16 (something that wasn’t even entirely legal at the time) and my dad took time off work and my brother out of school (a huge thing as my parents NEVER took us out of school) on his 16th birthday to take the test. But me? I had to have that boyfriend take me to get my permit so I could even learn, but it was the only test I could take without a parent. The driving test piece I had to wait until one my parents could find a convenient time (pretty sure it was a day off they had already planned) and a day where I wouldn’t miss school.

Now that I’m on the other end of things, I still don’t understand the mindset. I get that my family has a couple of freighters worth of issues, but I have seen and heard similar things in others. Yes, money is always going to be a factor because driving isn’t cheap, but I’m talking outside of that.

Whether it is teaching them to drive, or hobbling them when it comes to going off to college or really anything where kids are learning to follow their path to their future and happiness, I will never understand parents that try to clip their kid’s wings rather than helping them to fly.

Do parents not get that once those kids finally do learn to fly, and there is no stopping it, that they may choose to never come back if the damage is bad enough?

I’ve now got one that isn’t quite gone, but has one foot out the door and the other is standing behind the first waiting for her turn. It makes me sad to see that we are here already, but I won’t do anything to stand in their way.

Bumpy Beginning

I really didn’t expect things to go smoothly when school started this year. It doesn’t normally, so why would I expect this year to be better than normal? The fact that it has not, in fact, started smoothly shouldn’t be a surprise.

Today is the first day of BG’s junior year. She is going to be doing it all online for at least this first semester. As of today, she still has one class that is wrong (both the teacher of the correct class and the counselor are working to correct the issue) and a class that she has gotten zero communication from. All of her other classes, the teachers have sent emails and links to the online classrooms they are using, so we have no clue what is up with the one.

The messed up class is tied to BG’s mentoring program. She has to be in that class to be in the program. This particular piece has been so weird because the program is designed around interacting in person with the Freshman specifically so they are still scrambling to try and figure out what that looks like for their online learners. She still doesn’t know what she is going to be doing with that.

Considering everything going on, I really can’t complain too much. It is going to be really interesting to see how well all of this plays out moving forward. It is going to be a very weird year.

 

Curled Edges

I managed move in day without any tears. A day later and things are still dry. I’m thinking that it will hit when I least expect it.

MC is settled in, but I don’t think he is all that comfortable yet. So far, he can’t get into his room without an RA because there is something wrong with the scanner that allows access to their room, discovered that the fridge wasn’t plugged in hours after we’d moved him in (and put things in there) and has taken a cold shower because there is also an issue with the hot water (potentially).

I can tell he isn’t comfortable, but isn’t willing to just say so by the fact that Hubby, BG and I have all received multiple texts from him and it has been less than 24 hours.

Of all the things I didn’t really think about or consider is how this is going to impact BG. Her and her brother are extremely close, so not having him around all the time is going to be really hard on her (her more than him, though I think). She has been overjoyed that he has already started what we are calling the cat scavenger hunt, sending her off to get pictures of our cats to send to him. It is kind of silly and sweet and totally how the two of them are together.

I know this level of communication isn’t going to last. Once he gets into a routine, things will settle down, but it is going to be really odd for a while. For all of us.

I’ll take those little nonsense texts with a photo of his breakfast any day, though.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Redlining Stress Levels

The last few days leading up to recital are always stressful, but usually tempered with a lot of excitement, both on my part and on BG’s part. This year’s stress has been multiplied exponentially in so many ways and almost none of that is because of excitement, which is so damn sad.

Last night was dedicated to going through every single piece she would need and making sure it was labeled.  Always a pain because you know some things are already labeled, things from the previous year and some that they’d gotten earlier in the year, but you still have to check every single thing. We have to sift through it all and make sure we aren’t missing anything.

Part of this process also requires a last fitting on all costumes and accessories (hair pieces, gloves, whatever) to make sure I don’t have to do any adjustments or modifications to make sure not only does everything fit right, but that it fastens securely. I was forced to do some major last minute alterations to a costume a few years ago, like we are walking out the door last minute, and I swore I’d never do it again.

The whole process is like planning and packing for a 2 week long vacation to another country.

Just to get an idea, she has 5 costumes, 1 T-shirt, a leotard and dance pants, 2 hats, 2 hair pieces, 2 pairs of gloves, a pair of earrings, 3 different types of tights, 2 different pairs of tap shoes, a pair of jazz shoes, ballet shoes, pointe shoes (and all the inserts and toe pads to go with) and a pair of tennis shoes. These are all just the obvious, required parts to what she has to wear on stage. That doesn’t take into account all the extra things she needs to have on hand and all the back ups (tights especially) just to get through all the performances.

Or the masks. Do not get me started on the utter nightmare that makes of an already stressful mess. We had to run through options for shoving it down the front of costumes if she couldn’t make it work to wear on stage (our solution to a pile of them on a table). So fun!

We only went through the costume stuff last night. Even that still needs to be organized in a way that makes it easy for her to get to what costume she needs when she needs it.

Normally, she only has to be prepped for about 4 hours or so of time for each of the two days. This year, because of the need to break down the sizes of the shows, she will be at the venue for nearly 12 hours, so we also have to plan for additional things like food and the fact that I won’t be there but for a few of those hours so she has to figure out things on her own if something comes up. She doesn’t do her own hair so if there is a problem, and having to do things like hair pieces and pinning a mask in place is going to create problems, she is going to have to solve it on her own. That means more stuff to try and pack.

You should see my list of things she has to make sure she doesn’t forget. A whole host of those things are things she has never had to take before.

She is of course stressed more than normal, which is a lot because she is a stresser normally. She wants to wear her mask on stage, but it is not an easy thing at all. The biggest issue is of course the costume I made these to go with because it also has a hat. With the mask and the hat, you see her eyes, if you are lucky. There are so many issues with the logistics of it that it is going to be a problem. I spent probably an hour last night trying to get it to work to her satisfaction and we didn’t really find a solution.

I honestly don’t know how these girls aren’t going to be absolutely dragging by the second day. They are going to be dancing so much through all of this. So much more than normal.

Over the course of two days, she will be performing:

Opening tap, 10 times
Regular tap, 2 times
Ballet – 3 different dances, 2 times each
Pointe, 2 times
Hip hop, 2 times
Jazz, 2 times
Assistants, 10 times

Those can run anywhere from a few minutes to well over 6 minutes (assistants and opening tap are the longer ones) for each performance. Most of those aren’t any different than normal, but the opening tap and the assistants dance get performed in every show and there are SO many this year. It is so much that the kick line they normally do in assistants has been scrapped for the faculty because the owner, who is in her 70s, said that she can’t do the opening tap kick line and the assistants kick line that many times, so all of the faculty opted to not do it if she couldn’t be with them.

When you look at that, the time BG is at the venue, the time she is on stage (and may yet do so without a mask, depending on circumstances), it all has so many potentials to be problematic.

Then combine that with her role as an assistant where she has to not only be an example to the younger kids, but to help them follow the rules, get ready to go on stage and help herd them where they need to go and you are talking about a stress factory of epic proportions.

The studio told the assistants especially that they have to be very careful to wear their masks at all times when they aren’t on stage. If the venue sees this rule not being observed, they will shut it all down. I’ve added that to my list of worries because I know how so many of those girls have treated the mask rule inside the studio. There is a very real chance that someone will be an idiot at one of the first shows and shut the whole thing down for everyone else making all of this work and effort for nothing.

I do want the opportunity to get to see BG perform. I’m exited for that. It is all overshadowed by how stressed out I am about how many things could go really wrong.

I keep thinking that I just need to get through this and I can relax back into my hermit mode for a while, but that isn’t the case. We still have a graduation to get through, one we STILL don’t know the plan for. On the heels of that we have to work on getting MC ready to go to college. I have no clue when my stomach is going to unknot and finally settle down.

Dance Masks

And… they are frickin’ DONE!

I absolutely love them, but they were a bear and a half. I broke/bent 5 of the 6 needles I had originally thought I’d had. Right before I started sewing yesterday I wanted to have the others on hand but couldn’t remember where I put them and ran across a couple more packages while I was hunting. It relieved a whole lot of stress when I did, but I still panicked when I managed to mangle two of them back to back early on.

Working with the sequins material was a pain because of the needle issue and I had to go so slow over the thicker areas making it take longer. These also produced a lot of fuzz  and dropped a ton of sequins making me stop and clean out the bobbin area a couple of times.

Between the issue with the needles, having to stop to coat the needle to try and prevent that issue and the stops to do a little cleaning, I think I was having to hit pause about every 5 masks.

I had expected a more solid sequins material when I ordered it, but it is really transparent and the cream lining shows through. While I still think it is an amazing look, I’m extremely lucky that it still works with the costumes or I’d have been up a creek.

When I went to bag these up, my heat sealer shorted out and died on me as well. I had to yet again get creative to solve the problem. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to have an iron.

These will be getting handed off this afternoon with the full understanding that there is a very big chance that almost no dancer will actually choose to wear one on stage since it isn’t required. I’m okay with that. If by chance even one chooses to, then I’ve helped. If someone decides it is just really pretty and opts to wear it off stage or anywhere else, then I’ve helped.

It would be stunning if the entire group loved them so much they wanted to wear them on stage (they really would look amazing even if it is SO different), but this is reality and the chances of that are sitting down near zero.

BG really likes it and is strongly considering wearing hers on stage. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to give her something to make her feel better about making that decision if she does go that way.

Yes, it was a whole lot of effort and stress for the end result, but every single tiny bit helps and I’m okay with that.

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!