The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing

As I’ve alluded to before, I longed to be a dancer ever since I was a young girl.  For this reason, I’ve made it a goal to give my daughter the opportunity to engage in movement based classes from the time she was old enough at age 2 1/2.  She has since participated in creative movement, pre-ballet/tap, and tumbling, starting her third year at the studio this fall.  I will never push her to dance formally if it’s not something she wants to do, but I think trained dance provides a powerful opportunity to use your body in a purposeful way while also creating something aesthetically impressive.

By the time I was old enough to try out for dance team in high school, I lacked the confidence in my ability to contend with all the other girls who’d been taking lessons for years and were (seemingly) well assured of their capabilities.  Dance incorporates drama in that way, not just in playing a part given a various style or routine, but in demonstrating an aura of authenticity which makes a performance believable.

We had our first dance rehearsal for our upcoming holiday musical last week.  We were told to wear our performance shoes, a dance skirt, and dance pants or tights all which struck terror in me.  I didn’t know what the first three options entailed, and I knew I had plenty of the fourth option tucked in a drawer at home but questioned whether being covered in holes and rips made them presentable.

Thankfully, our choreographer was gracious when I hurried over to her during a break and asked her to fill me in on what I needed.  She came back with a pair of the theater’s performance shoes in my size and clarified that a dance skirt could be any skirt that was about knee length and not too tightly fitted.  She didn’t seem too worried about what I wore on my legs, so I figured I didn’t need to be either.

This is the ensemble I came up with for rehearsal, a mere hour or two before I actually needed to leave the house:


I was grateful that for our first go round, it would just be my male partner and I.  He wasn’t able to join us for the first half hour or so which gave me the chance to warm up and try out some of the moves without an audience (actually, the choreographer’s two young children were there and offered up laughs and applause when the moment struck them, their honesty keeping me in check).

When my partner showed up, I could sense he had some of the same nerves I did.  We didn’t have long to feel timid, as we were quickly thrust together, physically and otherwise, as our choreographer explained that over the course of this song and dance number, our job was to convince the audience that we had fallen in love.

I can’t say that we fell in love in a romantic sense, but we were certainly on the same team by song’s end.  You can’t sweat profusely, move belly to belly and butt to butt, and receive a mutual critique for using a “duck walk” during a graceful ballroom number without some bonding happening.

As my partner and I slowly walked hobbled away from the theater two and a half hours later, I said I’d see him next time, and he responded in a questioning tone with something to the effect of “if you say so”.  I let out a big belly laugh in return, which is always an indicator to me that I am truly in my element.

When an old friend and and one of those former coveted dance team members found out I was dancing in preparation for this role, she said “welcome to the love”.  In turn, I told her “it feels good to have finally arrived”.

The best things happen while you’re dancing

Things that you would not do at home come naturally on the floor

For dancing soon becomes romancing

When you hold a girl in your arms that you’ve never held before

Even guys with two left feet

Come out all right if the girl is sweet

If by chance their cheeks should meet while dancing

Proving that the best things happen while you dance

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The Things I Need

So, as much time as I have spent thinking about homeschooling over recent months, my husband has dedicated equal brain space to apple trees.  ‘He Dreams of Apples’.  It’s kind of a running joke between us, but make no mistake, he takes this whole apple tree business very seriously.  In addition to harvesting our two trees, he’s also hit up local strangers to collect from their unused trees, with a 2/4 success record.

Both kids were quick to share in their daddy’s enthusiasm.  Once we’d made it a habit to pick and eat apples fresh off the tree, our youngest couldn’t go outside without exclaiming “bapple?!”.  Big sis has gotten exceptionally good at finding a low hanging limb and giving it a good shake until the tree produces it’s goods.

One day, we did a family pick on a tree down the street from us that is (presumably) public property.  Even I got a bit caught up in apple tree fever and took a turn climbing it to make sure we got our pickings worth.

So what does one do with an abundance of apples?  Luckily, my parent-in-laws have a juice press so we have done some juicing with the expertise and assistance of family and friends.  There is talks of making hard cider.  We have been drying apples on the regular thanks to our newly purchased dehydrator.  And today, the kids and I made an apple pie.

Mind you, I wasn’t feeling particularly ambitious today, but my husband told me that our daughter had helped him peel some apples for him pre-drying last night.  So I figured I could put her to work and it might not be a bad idea to occupy ourselves with a project for the morning- and trust me, it did take us all morning.

Our girl was eager to show me the method that she and her dad had come up with in the interest of ease and safety.



Between the peeling, pie dough making, pie dough rolling, and added garnish, I’m not sure that there is an activity that could make a bigger mess than apple pie making does.  I acknowledged this when the process began, so I found myself more accepting of it than normal.  Sister and I even had to change our clothes afterwards, having forgotten to don our aprons beforehand.

Brother got in on the action halfway through and he and sister happily noshed on the pie crust remains just as my sister and I did when our grandmother or great grandmother made pies when we were kids, and maybe some years into adulthood, too.  I felt a connection with both of those women as I held a knife in my hand and carefully assured that each apple slice was fit and ready to be included in that pie, that product of hard work and thoughtfulness.  We are saving our pie until after dinner tonight so we can enjoy the fruits of our (literal) labor as a family.

This all reminds me of a song called “Johnny Appleseed” that we sing after each meal at the summer camp I attended as a young girl and eventually became a staff member of.  It is a secular camp, but there are nods to a provider such as this sprinkled throughout the day:

Oh, the lord is good to me

and so I thank the lord

for giving me the things I need

the sun and the rain and the apple seed

the lord is good to me.

As I reflect on my family’s adventures with apples, past and future, I can’t help but think we already do have just what we need.


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Be the good

I was leaving the library after weekly story time with both my kiddos. After pulling out of my spot, I briefly stopped at the exit to the parking lot having realized I needed my sunglasses and my daughter needed her headband.

As I turned out of the lot, I looked across the street to see an older woman shaking her head at me with a look of disdain in her eyes.

Apparently this woman disproved of my pausing for a moment to collect myself. In her mind, this may have seemed unnecessary, though I’m fairly certain I was not endangering nor inconveniencing anyone.

I wonder if this stranger would have reacted with any more sympathy had she known I’d been retrieving my sunglasses to prevent myself from getting a headache and my daughter’s headband to prevent her from having a meltdown?

I was already out of sight when I considered gesturing at her in return. But if I could go back, I would instead ask her some questions.

Do you know what it’s like to raise a spirited child? Do you know what it’s like to raise MY spirited child? Do you know what it’s like to raise a child? Do you know what it feels like to get chronic headaches? Do you know what it feels like to be me? And who are you to judge me?

Unfortunately, I know the negativity directed at me was minor compared to what some experience. I know a beautiful (drag) queen who has hateful words carelessly thrown at her when she walks down the street. I know mothers with children with special needs who are the recipients of ignorant looks and comments when trying to get through the checkout line.

There is far too much ugliness in our world. There are the big, blatant kinds of evil and then there are the many, smaller evils that band together to create a general attitude of intolerance and injustice.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much ‘Once Upon a Time’, but I would rather be the good. Whether that means refraining from acting unkind or, even greater, through promoting acts of kindness.

To combat those who direct demeaning comments or actions towards others, lets offer up more signs and words of affirmation to each other. Even if, or maybe especially, in the case of complete strangers.

My one and a half year old extends a smile and wave to every person he sees in the grocery store. I always marvel at how he fails to get discouraged even when nothing is given to him in return. I can’t read his pre-verbal mind, but if I had to take a guess, I think spreading the love makes him feel good.

I will likely never have the opportunity to ask my questions of that woman who shook her head at me, and maybe I don’t want to. Sadly, it is pretty hard to combat hate. But thankfully, it’s just as easy to spread love.


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How to Make a Family

When I first entertained the idea of blogging a year ago, I drafted a post titled “How to Make a Family”. Upon my return, this draft was waiting for me with nothing more than a title.

I’ve been considering what I might have envisioned when I wrote that. Instructions? A recipe? I honestly don’t know what I had in mind, but some thoughts have come to me as I prepare to mark 8 years to the day of the first time I met my now husband (actually it was the first time we’d seen each other in 10 or so years, but that’s another story.)

So, when I think about how to make a family, the first thing that comes to mind is two people who love each other. But there’s more to it than that.

Those two people have to love each other enough.

Enough for what? Enough for everything. Enough for every smile, kiss, fight, mistake, birth, death, loss, victory, laugh, cry, journey, breakdown, upset, and joy.

You can throw whatever you’d like into the mix. In our case, that includes two kids, two dogs, one cat, an old house in the country, a backyard hammock, a helping of blood, sweat, tears, and equal parts happiness.

The extra ingredients will add a lot of flavor. But no matter what recipe you use, always start with two people in love.


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Love in the time of Hammock

As hints of fall start to peek through, I’ve started to think longingly about all the parts of summer and this summer in particular that I’m going to miss.

One thing stands out above the rest: our backyard hammock.

In some parts of the world, hammock time may carry on for most or all of the year.  But here in the Pacific Northwest, hammock time makes a limited appearance over a span of three or so months, if we’re lucky.

Although this is our third summer in this home, we didn’t quite hop the hammock train in time either of the previous summers. Truth be told, we didn’t have the right spot for it. And didn’t make the time for it. But this year, we made time and the perfect spot for it in the shade of two trees in our backyard.

I shared sweet moments in the hammock with both of my children there, together and separately.  And these moments were made even more precious by nature of how slowly time seemed to pass by.


sister’s serene hammock time.

The hammock is one of few vessels that slows you down while keeping you in motion.  Actually, it prevents you from going anywhere, which I think is kind of the point.

Life in general (and this summer was no exception) tends to be a pattern of moving from point A to point B then back to point A again, but it’s sure nice to linger in point A for a while and remember just how good that feels.


happy hammocking.

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When intentional teaching leads to accidental learning

Our house has always involved regular story time and lots of incidental teaching when the situation presented itself.

Now that we have embarked on a school at home journey, teaching has become much more intentional.

This is not to say that teaching happens at designated times. Rather, we have been seizing moments of downtime or promoting them by offering learning activities in an engaging context.

For example, to practice math, the four of us sat down at the kitchen table together. In a telling example of our teaching/personality styles, my husband got out the abacus and post with rings, and I brought the work book and picture cards.

Also known as flash cards, I avoid referring to them as this because I don’t believe they should be used to put a child on the spot. Instead, I aim to incorporate them into an interactive activity or allow my daughter to use them to do her own self teaching.

While sister and daddy practiced counting with their manipulatives, brother was eager to get his hands on the picture cards having seen sissy using them before.

I gave him a few cards to work with and watched as he laid them out before “counting” the cards and the objects on them.

Ever since we started working with his sister, little brother has wanted to be right in the action. I initially tried giving him an alternate activity, but more often than not, he wants the same materials that big sister’s got, whether books, paper and pen, or picture cards.

The other accidental learning that has occurred has been on my husband and I’s part.

Teaching in a more intentional way has led us to learn a few things, among them, how to be:

Patient, when learning isn’t happening at the pace we’d envisioned.
Flexible, when learning isn’t happening at the time or space we’d envisioned.
Creative, when wanting to teach a new concept or finding we need to teach it another way.
Present, when other distractors attempt to get in the way of teaching/learning.

Being present especially resonates with me after an assigned reading (for my post graduate course) on Mindful Parenting.

This strategy promotes being present during child led activities. I think we owe it to our kids to be present whether the activity is child or adult led, play based or routine.

If we aren’t, we may miss an opportunity to teach our children or learn something ourselves.

Besides, being present isn’t really all that hard when your subject looks like this…


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Counting blessings

Though I haven’t gotten into a regular blogging routine yet, and possibly never will, I was feeling badly the last few days that I hadn’t had time to write anything. In addition to not blogging, I’ve been not doing much of anything.

I have experienced persistent headaches and allergies from the time I was a teen. Recently, I saw an allergist for the first time and opted to start shot therapy earlier this month. I have since been deemed as “highly sensitive” to both my allergens and subsequently, the treatment itself. My weekly dose has already been reduced once and I’m wondering if I’m still not tolerating the process well.

At any rate, it can be very defeating to have ongoing/recurrent health issues. I feel like I miss out on so many opportunities and created missed opportunities for/with my family along the way.

My husband has gotten exceptionally good at reminding me that yes, it’s okay if I check out for awhile, and yes, it’s okay if we don’t make it downtown for that horse and buggy ride (are you sure??).

Yesterday, I got sister to slow down enough to watch White Christmas with me. During our cocoa/tea break, I was gifted with this timely message on my tea bag:


Once our movie and beverages were finished, I begrudgingly succumbed to my bed upstairs in hopes that some quiet would alleviate my discomfort.

It hadn’t been more than 10 minutes when a pair of little footsteps made their way up the staircase. It was sister, checking in on me. I could hear myself in the mimicked tone of her voice, saying things like “you poor thing” and “I’m sorry you don’t feel well”.

A few minutes later, she returned with something she said she knew would make me feel better.

Earlier that day, she’d received a gift from her aunt that my muddled brain had so eloquently described to her as a “picture holder”. My daughter had thus created a picture for me and placed the holder next to my bedside, assuring me that looking at it would help me calm down (we recently created a ‘calm down jar’ for her which is intended to serve this function).

I teared up at her small (yet grand) act of kindness.

It is too easy, for me at least, to focus on those missed opportunities and straight up misfires when it comes to trying to get it right as a parent.

But I’ve got to be getting something right when this four year old girl has already made some connections when it comes to feeling sympathy for others and offering comfort in response. She was on her way up to check on me a 3rd time when her daddy reminded her that mommy needed to get some rest.

Which reminds me: no matter the day, no matter the situation, I have no less blessings to count.


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What’s in a Name

I thought that it might be time for me to explain myself for those of you who don’t know me, or who don’t know me as Beefy.

It all started at the age of 14, more than half a lifetime ago, when my first niece was born.  Until then, my family had endearingly referred to me as Bree Bree.  When my niece started talking (at a very young age due to her baby ingeniousness) Bree Bree didn’t come out quite right, and Beefy was born.

My niece lived with our family for her first couple years of life, and I was often mistaken for her (teen) mom while toting her around the grocery store.  Being an aunt was a new role for me, one that gave me a real sense of pride and purpose.

Over the years, my other family members and close friends joined the club and I became Beefy to many.  Many variations evolved to include Beef, Beefstick, Beefalicious, Breefy, and most recently, Mama Beefy.

My sister and I even had t-shirts made once, mine with BEEFY printed across the chest, and on hers TEENY, a childhood nickname that also stuck even when she shot up past her big sister.


Circa 2005. three of my favorites: my nana, my sister, and my mama

Beefy was and continues to be a defining identity for me.  Through the many stages and phases I experienced beginning in young adulthood, I wasn’t always clear on who Bree was, but I usually had a pretty good sense of how to be Beefy.

Being Beefy gives me a grit and strength that I don’t innately possess and I am ever grateful to this alter ego who has survived through countless challenges, changes, disappointments, and triumphs.

At a recent work training, a (genuinely) motivational speaker challenged us to always work towards becoming our best selves.  He referenced the old adage “fake it till you make it” but also offered “fake it till you become it”.

I wasn’t born Beefy, but I’ve become her, and she’s here to stay.

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An Ode to Tangibility


Disclaimer: This entry was ‘penned’ over a year ago, but we can stick with the whole 28 years, 1 month and 7 days thing…

When I was younger, I always kept a journal. I actually remember my first Diary, a gift on my 7th or 8th birthday- it was light pink with gold embossing, a lock and key and was likely purchased at my local mini mart/gas station for 3.99.

It contained what seemed like hundreds of small, lined pages in which I could begin to disclose my greatest secrets, free from anyone’s eyes but my own.

I am pretty certain I wrote it in maybe 4 times and each entry was a proclamation of love for either an indifferent classmate or the equally unattainable Joey Lawrence.  WHOA.   I can still see my awkward but eager penmanship scrawled across the pages, indenting the pages to follow with the weight of their words.

There’s a strong likelihood that this relic could still be found somewhere in the archives of my life’s collections as I am known for hanging onto things for years/forever.

I just recently threw away a to go container from one of my first dates with my now husband onto which he had inscribed some romantic sentiment, come to think of it, maybe that didn’t actually make it to the trash can…

At any rate, written word seems especially powerful to me and I have the greatest difficulty parting with anything that involves written statements to or from me.

This means I still have years worth of cards (birthday, Christmas, wedding), countless folded notes from high school friends and lovers (terms used loosely) and embarrassing poems, songs and journal entries dedicated to people or events that I’d rather forget, but, discarding of these moments in history feels like I’m trying to rewrite the story of my life when it’s already been written.

Up until today, age 28, 1 month and 7 days. A husband, career and 2 kids later, I’ve lost touch with those tangible means of self reflection and sharing in a frenzied world where a status update is only a click away. Wanting to create and commit to something more lasting and intimate, I found myself here. And so it begins …

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Snakes are in love, or, Why I’m considering homeschool

My daughter knew her ABC’s by 18 months.  She could write her name at age 2.  And yet, when her dad and I tried to move to the next ‘natural’ step of sounding out words by reading or writing, she inevitably shut down.  Every.  Time.

She would copy long sentences but ask her to figure out how to write a simple two letter word? Nope.  She would retell a story book from memory but try and get her to name a familiar word for us?  No way.

What was this kid’s deal?  Being an early childhood specialist and speech language pathologist, you thought we would have this whole pre-school skill readiness thing down pat.  And yet.

This kid was not ready to learn these skills on our clock.

And we only created mutual heartache by pushing it before she was.

Yesterday, we randomly asked (okay, it may not have been entirely random, but we’ll get to that) if she wanted to practice some writing.  She cheerfully agreed and we were prepared for the usual routine of her writing out every word she knows (her family member’s names and “LOVE”) before she indicated she wanted to try something new.

She had just procured a new pet snake, of the wooden variety, so asked how to spell snake.  And then hiss.  And then wiggle.  And she was not infuriated when we prompted her to try and figure out some of the words herself.  And she didn’t do a half bad job!

Then, she formulated and wrote her first ever independent sentence (with a spelling check provided by mom and dad):


We nearly threw her a parade right there in the kitchen, we were so ecstatic.

Today, I asked her what she wanted to do when she got home from pre-school.  And she said “remember that school stuff we did yesterday?  I want to do that again”.

Since it was a rare and lovely September day here on the coast, we moved our operation outside.


After some writing and drawing, we went back to the words and book we had been working on the day before and she read it.  By.  Herself.

Again, astounded!  And all that worry that she was never going to learn, when all we had to do was wait for her to want to.

So, that reminds me.  There’s something I haven’t told you.

I am considering homeschool.

I’ve talked about this with a few of my friends and family members, and there has been some concerned reactions, particularly from those of the educator type.  And full disclaimer, me and my husband are the educator types, too.  But I am considering homeschool, and here are some of the reasons why.

I like being with my kids.  I like my kids being together.  I like teaching my kids.  I like learning with my kids. I am concerned about the direction of public education, the heart of my own chosen profession.

My (nearly school age) child is bright and gifted in many different ways, all of which I want to be explored to her heart’s content.  My child is happiest when learning and working and playing at her own pace.  My child has many opportunities for socialization outside of a school setting (dance, library, sports, theater, etc).

I’ve read a lot of posts lately about “Why I am Choosing Homeschool” and though I’m not there yet, I’m considering it.  You could even say I’m trial running it.  (I’m looking specifically at the curriculum offered through Oak Meadow- I encourage you to check them out online and see all the good stuff they’ve got going, homeschool and human-wise).  And I’m also considering public education. I’ve got a year ahead of me and I hope by then, I will feel ready to make the best decision for my family, whatever road that might be.

A quote I read this morning helped to remind me that whatever I, or you, choose, there is no right or wrong, just different:

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness.  Just because they’re not on your road does not mean they are lost.  – Dalai Lama

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