The Ribbon Festival was on Saturday. (You remember The Ribbon Festival. We’ve been there one, two, three, four, five times before.) It had been on my calendar for a month. The dresses had been chosen for a week. The day before, I had pulled out the music and numbered the measures, hung out the dresses, and located the shoes – in fact, we’d done a test fitting, just to be sure we were ready. But two hours before performance time, we were not ready. Julia had lost a shoe and Lucy’s shoes, suddenly and inexplicably, did not fit. So, at forty-five minutes to showtime, after a swift foot measurement, I sent the girls down their respective aisles at the shoe store with the task of selecting a black dress shoe in their size. This is how Julia ended up with a pair of heels – low heels, but HEELS – and Lucy, wedges.

This wouldn’t have happened on any other day.

They put them on right there in the store and walked proudly out of the mall like they had those robot legs from Herbie Hancock’s Rockit video.

Amazingly, we were on time for the event.

Lucy battled her stage fright on the bench for 68 agonizing seconds (which I cut from the video) before tentatively, but successfully performing Lightly Row.

Julia played Minuet 2.

They felt pretty good about themselves.

Lucy and Julia with their ribbons

They were almost as pleased with their ribbons as they were with their shoes.

The saga of Bee’s birthday concluded last night with cake and the blowing out of candles candle.

When you do birthday candles, if you have a number candle like you see in the picture below, do you also add other candles to total the number of the birthday kid’s year of celebration or does the number candle suffice? We usually do a singular number candle, but I’ve been to some other parties and I think maybe we’re doing it wrong.

Anyhoo, here’s Bee and her sisters…

Bee, her sisters and her cake...

...with Bee masks...

…with bee masks…

(You cannot see this picture…


…because they’re in ninja mode!)

...that glow in the dark.

…that glow in the dark.

And then the balloons…mmm…dropped? (Imagine me saying that in The New Style of The Beastie Boys.)

Now Bee is three, which is cool. We haven’t had a three-year-old around in a few years. I think we’ll enjoy it.

If you leave your paddling pool out and it gets all gross, you just might attract a visitor.

Visitor in our gross pool

She (Or he? How can you tell!?) had just been hanging around the pool. Then the girls put a rock in there and SHE JUMPED UP ON IT and that’s pretty much the most exciting thing that happened on Sunday or ever.

Up close visitor in our gross pool

Bee will turn three tomorrow. Three has traditionally been the first birthday for which I throw an invite-your-friends party, but we’ve decided to save that experience for next year. We will be celebrating BEE IS THREE not-so-quietly at home.

There will be a balloon drop in our dining room. It will go like this:

And now, I’ve got a cake to make.

Middle School, Day 2.

Her heart is a drummer.

(This is currently her favorite outfit.)

Our bedtime plan was complete brilliance as we have not only been up at 6 a.m. the past four mornings, we have been happy about it. Oh, I hope these good mornings last! Do you know what Julia was doing at 6:30 this morning while I was making breakfast? Practicing piano. Because, “I like to start my day with music.”

That wasn’t filmed today. And it’s not exactly piano “practice” so much as fooling around. But. My dentist loves to tease me about how many kids I have. “Trying for a baseball team?” he says.

“I’d be happy with a rock band,” I tell him.

And then Julia plays that song and I rub my hands together and chortle because yessss. My dream is totally coming true one day.

Until then, I plan to continue my origami.

You do remember my origami, don’t you? The origami notes I starting making for Julia, like, two years ago? I used to tweet them now and then along with the silly note I wrote on (or in) them. For example, this origami squirrel:

Origami Squirrel

And the note: “Squirrel! We’re both nuts about you!”

Well, I’m doing it for the girls again this year. Not every day. That was crazy. Do you know how complicated origami can get? I’m doing one a week. Here’s week one:

Origami heart notes - first day of school

Notice I didn’t write “Mom” on Julia’s. You know, Middle School.

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” – Lao Tzu

I’ve had that quote posted somewhere I could read it daily for the past ten years, at least. I struggle with this. I compare. I feel competitive. I believe I’m not good enough. And that insecurity brings out the ugliest in me.

Julia and Lucy performed in a recital at a nursing home recently as part of their summer piano curriculum.

“Julia will play The Happy Farmer,”‘ their piano teacher had told me on the phone the weekend before.

“Oh, not Minuet 1?” Minuet 1 is the most advanced song she’s mastered and, in fact, she’s just about nailed Minuet 2.

“No, she’ll play The Happy Farmer. And Lucy will play…we have a few playing Honeybee already…

“She could play Lightly Row,” I offered.

“Lucy will play Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle.”

“Sounds good,” I said cheerfully. But inside, I was not cheerful.

Inside, I was thinking about the fact that Lucy played Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle at the spring recital two years ago and everyone would think she hasn’t made any progress since then.

Inside, I was remembering the gut-punch that came at The Ribbon Festival the year another student asked Julia, “So what are you playing?” and when she answered, her mom said, “Oh, well….that’s okay.” Because, obviously, she hadn’t kept pace. She was only playing Musette. She wasn’t even in Book Two, yet! (At least that’s what I imagined them pointing out to each other on the way home in their car.)

I hate having those thoughts. I feel so small and petty when I think this way. (Does anyone else think this way? I’m not even sure which answer makes me feel better.) None of it matters. Someone will always play better and be more advanced than my girls are. And there will always be someone that isn’t where they are yet. Comparing just diminishes the hard work they’ve invested and love they’ve developed for piano. Learning and playing music isn’t about being the best – it’s about so much more. But here I was reducing it to a contest, as I do – not out loud, never out loud – but in my head.

Of course, I’ve learned to reel myself in, mostly because I don’t want to curse my kids with my competi-mom brain disease.

I know a little comparison can be good. Watching a friend excel can be good motivation to practice better or more often. And performing in front of an audience of other students and their families – people who truly understand and appreciate the effort and dedication mastering those songs requires – well, it’s a wonderful celebration of their progress.

I just wish I could walk on the middle ground from the get-go, instead of going off the deep end and exhausting myself swimming back to shore and finding it again.

I just want to be okay with things as they are instead of always, always pushing so frantically and desperately for better.