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Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Tropical Storm, A Tornado and A Dance Competition

So, as you know Claire and I are in Florida for Claire's national dance competition.  As you also know, we flew into Florida right as Tropical Storm Debby started rearing her ugly head.  But what some of you might not know is that the day after we got here Richmond, and our suburb, got hit by tornadic conditions (I just had to use the word tornadic ~ how many times do we ever get the opportunity to use that word??).

Unease. That seems to be the word of the week. Unease snuck up on me as we flew into Florida.  Everyone I've talked to here has said they feel off-kilter, not quite right or stressed.  So, I'll use my literary license and put the word unease to how I think families are feeling here.

We flew, or drove, into a tropical storm and now all of us are dealing with the stress of thinking about our families and homes back in Virginia.  Stan called me right after the storm ripped through.  He told me we lost one of our maple trees in our front yard during the storm.  When we moved into our house six years ago the trees were tiny, little saplings.  They grew side by side, year after year becoming big, beautiful, full and majestic until the storm ripped one in half.
Two giant trees behind our house were toppled by the storm. Power was out for extended periods of time for most of us. Some of the dancers have their entire family here so there is no one at home to tell them if there is any storm damage. They just have to wait and see what the storm may have done to their homes. The storm in Virginia created another level of discomfort for us as we all realized there were the unknowns and loose ends at home. I think it's safe to say all of us are more than ready to leave the crazy schedule of this dance competition behind, pack our bags, leave Florida (and the remnants of Tropical Storm Debby) behind and head home to see what kind of damage needs to be cleaned up from tornadic (I got to use tornadic again!) activity. The girls have had a good time, for the most part, done a fabulous job, without a doubt, but they are ready to get back to some normalcy as well. It's time to put this adventure into the scrapbooks of our memories and go home. What a glorious word...home. I have goosebumps just thinking about getting back home ~ for the love of my children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Keep Me Safe

Well, we're here! Claire's dance nationals are finally upon us.  She and I packed up and headed south to Tampa.

As I've said in previous blogs, I love watching Claire and her dance teams perform. They are delightful, age appropriate and so much fun to cheer on. It's the other teams I dread watching.

The teams, like the one, who danced to the song "Slumber Party Girls" where one of the lines goes "You can be my homie. I'll make you wanna do me." The girls dancing to the song were no more than 10 years old, gyrating their hips like they were well trained strippers. It was a horrendous spectacle to watch...a train wreck, if you will ~ one that, try as I might, I just couldn't look away from. I could only stand there with my mouth hanging open, in horror, and watch as the girls shimmied, shook and moved their tiny little, prepubescent bodies in a shockingly suggestive manner.

I talked to Claire after that performance and asked her what she thought. Her response was dead on..."It was scary," she said. I asked her what she meant and she said that the dance didn't seem "safe." Claire went on to tell me that it one of the reasons she loves dancing for Ms. Barbara and Ms. Jenn; they keep her, and all of their dancers, safe.  They do it by not pushing the boundaries of complete and total impropriety.

What really got me at the end of Claire's last dance competition is that "Slumber Party Girls" was rewarded with an overall first place win in their category...that means the judges rewarded the teachers and the dancers for a horrifically inappropriate dance routine. The judges rewarded teachers of prepubescent girls for teaching them early on in life to become "private dancers," strippers and all manner of inappropriate "dancers."   I'm glad Claire sees the brilliance in having the adults around her keeping her safe.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Betty's a Bitch

OK, really and truly I do know that the Tropical Storm lashing Florida right now is named "Debby" but Betty sounds so much better with the word Bitch so I stuck with it because really and truly she is a complete and total Bitch whatever her name is!

Here's the story of how Debby became such a complete and total Bitch in my mind...

Yesterday dawned bright and sunny in good ol' Richmond, Virginia. Claire and I were in high spirits knowing it was the day we were leaving for her national dance competition in Florida. I knew the weather was going to be a challenge heading into Florida because Tropical Storm Debby, from here forward now known as just the Bitch, was and is stalled in the Gulf of Mexico. When we got to the airport spirits ran even higher when Claire found two of her teammates were going to be on the same plane to Atlanta with us. It was looking to be a good day full of fun and friends....

The trip to Atlanta was smooth and easy. Our layover was dull and uneventful. I knew, though, things were going to change as we boarded the flight to Tampa. The word "unease" entered my head.

Claire and her teammate wanted to sit together so they asked us to let them change seats with one us...putting the moms in one row and the girls in another row. My unease grew a little. I really didn't want Claire that far away from me. But I felt like I launched into "overprotective mama mode" prematurely so I quashed my feelings of anxiety and sent Claire back to sit with her friend. We moms had a good time, chatting and getting to know each other a little better as the plane raced onward. It seemed like my launch into the world of anxiety was all for nothing...until we were about 45 minutes from our destination. It was then that the captain put an end to the flight attendant's service, clamped down on seat belts and made sure everyone stayed put ~ exactly where they were. The girls at the back of the plane and the mom's at the front.

The flight attendants were buckled in. I knew that should have been a clue but they stayed chatty and smiley so no one really knew how bad things were. The air was turbulent and messy, sometimes launching us, just a little, out of our seats. It was one particular jolt, though, that was almost my undoing. My body lifted off of the seat as the plane jolted downward. My rear end felt a bit of a sting as it came back in contact with the seat. After that, I strained hard to look for Claire but I couldn't see her over the rows of seats. My nerves were raw and about to become more raw...the captain came through, loud and clear, telling us we were being diverted to Orlando...SERIOUSLY?!? He said the air was too turbulent to land in Tampa.

We landed in Orlando and were greeted by five fire trucks and two ambulances advancing toward our plane...REALLY?!? I was beginning to think maybe we didn't divert because of the weather. The fire marshal was dispatched to look at our engine...ENGINE?! This is supposed to be weather related ~ NOT engine related!!

The story takes more twists and turns as we are shepherded around Orlando we get to Tampa via car in and head into a hurricane ourselves? Do we wait for a proposed bus to get us there? Or do we go back into the air, on another plane, and risk another flight? In the end, we risked another flight and got settled for our 22 minute flight to Tampa.

It was as we waited on the tarmac to be cleared for take off to Tampa, that we found out our engine actually caught fire...sending smoke and flames into the already turbulent air. That was the giant jolt we all felt...the engine caused it. Nothing says "calm and relaxing" like flying into a tropical storm with a jet engine on fire! Holy SHIT! If I'd known that our engine caught fire I think I would have opted for another way into Tampa!

I'm not a very stressed out flyer. I don't usually mind it. The only time I mind flying is when we are out over open water and all I can see are vast amounts of water with no end. It's then that I scan the water for sharks, hoping and praying that we don't experience that "water landing" thing they talk about in the safety briefing. But last night, I have to admit, I was scared shitless as we hurtled back into the Bitch. My hands stayed clenched together in my lap and my shoulder kinked as I tried hard to make the best of a scary situation.

So, here is what I determined last night as I sat on a plane with a hundred strangers who became my closest confidants; bound together by near calamity....

I would much rather look at the bright side of things.
We had much to be thankful yesterday.
Our engine didn't fall off or cause us to crash.
We had skilled pilots and flight attendants who kept everything calm and professional.
We didn't know the true extent of the problem until well after the fact.
We got a six dollar voucher to be used for dinner at the airport...WOW, six WHOLE dollars!! ;-)
And most importantly, we are here to tell the story ~ as scary as it was.
The four of us weary travelers arrived at our hotel last night and headed straight to our rooms, each wanting and needing a little down time to process the events we just went through. Claire and I slept in and are now most recuperated. I don't think she knew how truly scared I was last night and I'd prefer for her not to know. We still have a flight to catch to get home. Hopefully, the Bitch will be long gone by the time we have to leave. I do want Claire to remember the epic story of flying into the Bitch but I really don't want her to remember the fear of the day. She has a lot of living to do and it's hard to live a full life when you're scared. So, I'll keep my fears to myself and head back into the air on Friday so we can go home.

Oh for the love of my children....

Friday, June 15, 2012

The last day

 Today is the last day my baby girl will be an elementary schooler.  My heart is heavy and filled with guilt.  You see, I am not there to greet her as she steps off the bus for the last time.  I was there for both boys.  But I won't be there for Claire.

I try to live life with my kids so there are no regrets.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, this won't be a deal breaker for Claire as she grows up.  But right, now my guilt is winning the battle of "no regrets."

I'm trying hard not to think about the tears Claire will be shedding as she steps off the bus for the last time, knowing I'm leaving her in capable hands.  Stan will be there waiting for her as she steps off the bus.  And ultimately, that may be better for her.  She will have to buck up just a little.  Stan's not as coddling of her when it comes to her life's upheavals.  He's also not quite as emotionally invested in Claire's elementary school days as I am.  He didn't spend years of his life in and out of Rivers Edge.  That wasn't his role.  So, I'm thinking maybe it's a good thing I'm not there.  Claire can have her cry without having to see my teas too. 

It may be Claire's last day as an elementary schooler but it's her first day in a brand new for which she is more than prepared.  She's ready to take the next step ~ to accept the new challenges of a school that will push her a little harder academically.  I'm hoping that someday, she will look back on this last day and smile...knowing it really wasn't a last of anything but a first day in a new adventure.

I'm hoping someday I get there too...for the love of my children...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Driver

Well, shit!  Two giant milestones in two days.  I don't think this mama can handle much more...

It's official.  Zach is now  licensed to drive ~ alone....meaning without me or Stan in the car.  He can just fire up a car and drive off without me.  The apron strings just got a little looser.  DAMN!

The driving instructor called this morning at 7 a.m. asking if Zach could be ready to leave earlier than originally expected.  I sent Lucas up to the third floor with the task of waking the sleeping giant.  Zach shed his usual morning teenage slothfulness and zipped down the stairs, ready to rock and roll, excitement seeped from every pore.  He was ready to finish up instruction and get moving to the real deal.  Zach's instructor showed up while I was taking Claire to school so he was gone when I got home.  My wait for his return home was short lived.  He came bounding, puppy like, into the house with request that I come outside to sign papers and give the instructor my license.  The time for his own license was here.

Zach now proudly possesses that little piece of paper that means he is growing up.  I tried my hardest to hide his new license from him after the driving instructor handed it to me.  I ran into the house as fast as I could and tried hard to hide it.  I danced back in forth in front of Zach so he couldn't see where it was ~ on top of the safe.  I bobbed and weaved in front of him, keeping him at arms length just to keep those darn apron strings a little tighter for just a moment.  I know he must have thought I was a complete and total nut case dancing in front of him, keeping him from his prize, but his mood was too light so he played along.

And then the phone call came.  The phone call from Lucas asking me to please bring his forgotten project to school.  Zach listened in to the call and piped up saying "You know, Mom, I could bring it to him for you."  His eyes were alight and his mood was cheery - there was no denying him his first taste of freedom.  I handed him his license and was enveloped in a big, bear hug with Zach whispering, ever so sweetly "You know, Mom.  I'll always be your baby."  I know, Zach.  I know.  You will always be my little baby in my heart.  But my head knows you are growing up and I am powerless to stop it.  God how I love that man-child.  And God knows how I hated watching him drive away...alone.  But I did it.

I did it knowing he would be back shortly.  I did it knowing the truck didn't have much gas.  And I did it for Zach who has earned my trust over the past year and deserves the opportunity to relish his first taste of freedom.  He was home shortly after he left, telling me he was a little nervous out there alone.  And I smiled a knowing smile, glad he was home.

It was shortly after Zach came home that I had to leave to run my own errands and when I came back Zach was just leaving with the keys to "his" Volvo.  He told me he was going to his friend's house to pick him up and then he was off to football practice, saying he would be back later.  I looked at him, as he walked to the car, with a small stab of something piercing me, maybe sadness, maybe pride or maybe both together.  He must have felt something emanating from me because as quickly as he got into the car he pulled himself out just as quickly, returning to me with another giant hug and an "I love you."  

I stood, rooted to my spot, watching Zach drive away.  But I did for the love of my children....

Monday, June 11, 2012

And The Tears Fell

A couple of weeks ago I walked into Claire's elementary school for one of those quickie drop something off at the office and bug out.  I was preoccupied ~ not really focused on the school or the environment.  I was doing my thing and trying to get in and out as quickly as possible.  But I stopped dead in my tracks as Claire's former kindergarten teacher came into view, leading her class to lunch.  It was then that memories came flooding back and I saw, in my mind's eye, images of Claire from her days at Rivers Edge Elementary.  It was then, too, I realized her time there was's now her time to move on.  As I stood there with my memories playing through my head, my eyes filled with tears and my throat constricted.  I knew I wouldn't have too many more times to pass through that door.  

Today was my sweet, baby girl's "graduation" from elementary school and while Stanley makes fun of it for all of the pomp and circumstance, I defend it, not as a true graduation but a marking of yet another milestone in the lives of our kiddos.  Today, my tears fell in earnest as I listened to the achievements and accolades each of these kids earned in their years at Rivers Edge.  Today, I listened in awe as our beloved principal broke down in tears reading first a poem she wrote and then telling a story of a mother eagle pushing her kids out of their nest to go achieve what they are supposed to achieve.  These are her kiddos.  They are ones who began their elementary school journey as she began her first year as a principal.  These were her group of children and she saw go from shy kindergartner to leaders of the school.  And her tears fell.

My darling girl looked so grown up and ready for the challenges of the middle school years as she received her awards and was presented with her graduation medal.  But as she and her chorus sang their closing song, I saw the quiver of her chin and her tears fell.  I know why.  It's her last time performing on the stage of her cherished elementary school.  And as I watched her tears I flashed back to times gone by and I saw her as a kindergartner up on stage for the first time singing for the parents and my tears fell too.

I know most of you know how much I adore elementary school.  And today solidified, once again, why I cherish these years.  All three of my kiddos were loved...they may have screwed up, goofed off, gotten into trouble but they were always loved in elementary school.

I can't believe Claire's time at Rivers Edge is at an seems like just yesterday she walked into Mrs. Ciucci's kindergarten class where she was taught how much she was loved and respected as a student.  Claire moved on to Mrs. Hodges, and first grade, where she was taught that she was terrific and magnificent and the class rule was to never hurt anyone on the inside or outside.  Mrs. Bowles became Claire's fabulous second grade teacher who taught her to love learning and challenged her to always try new and different approaches to learning everything.  Third grade was the year she stepped into Mrs. Livesay's marvelous classroom full of enthusiasm and a passion for teaching.  Claire was then given the gift of Mrs. Boyer in fourth grade who continued to show these kiddos the joys of learning...excitement and energy abounded in her class.  Fifth grade...what can I say?  Claire, and Rivers Edge, has been blessed with the best of teachers and fifth grade was no exception.  Mr. Friedman's devotion to teaching knows no bounds and Mrs. Dussault rounded out Claire's fifth grade experience with a joy at imparting the love of learning.  She couldn't be more blessed...and neither could we.

Claire is the only one of my three to go from kindergarten to fifth grade in one school so for her, and me, this time is a little harder.  The teachers who have had Zach and Lucas have also had Claire.  These teachers were not only my kids' teachers they have become my friends...sharing the joys and pitfall of our journey in raising these kiddos.  To all of you, know how much you are loved, appreciated and admired for all you have given not only my kids but to me as well.

So, today my tears fell for the love of my children...

The Fabulous Mr. Friedman and Claire

Marking Claire's milestone

Nana and Granddad came too

Our wonderful Mrs. Dussault and Claire