The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The Brewmaster and I just made the long trek by car from Iowa City, IA to Houston, TX to see Ballet Boy’s final performances with the Houston Ballet Academy and bring him home for less than three weeks before he returns full-time.

It was an epic trip. We learned a few things:

  1. My car GPS is not trustworthy. It takes us way out of our way. Not cool on a super-long trip.
  2. Our phone GPS isn’t much better. Remember the days when we just used maps?
  3. Arkansas is not a butt-ugly wasteland. It is gorgeous, full of bluffs, foothills, forest and greenery. It was worth the 1.5 hour detour on our way down through the Ozarks.

We did okay. No fights, probably because I just let the Brewmaster do most of the driving because that is what he likes to do when he gets in a car.

Houston, Texas, was full of surprises. The Center for Dance is located in an artsy, cosmopolitan neighborhood near an art museum and the home of the Houston Symphony. On a friend’s recommendation, we visited Specs, a wine and booze shop. The wine specialist there had connections to the ballet, loved opera and knew of my aunt who is kind of a BIG DEAL in Napa Valley. He may of sucked us into buying more than we needed.

I left Houston feeling like that was exactly where Ballet Boy needs to be to grow. We saw some amazing upper level dancers who were 15-18. My heart swelled with the knowledge that by next summer my son would be as good as anyone in that group. The teachers all seem wonderful, the building is very new and full of sunny, tall windows, and my son will live on the top floor in their dormitory with 16 other young dancers. I couldn’t be happier for him.

Houston Ballet Center for Dance
Houston Ballet Center for Dance

In Houston, I also met a great group of moms. They are all part of a Facebook group that stems from a blog called “My Son Can Dance.” After chatting with them all summer, it was great to meet in person, exchange stories about how our sons got into dance, and enjoy the common ground of being a proud parent. One woman in particular seemed like a southern sister soul; she loves cooking and is health-conscious, and the Brewmaster and I had fun helping her prep a dinner for all the moms and dads. I know she will have Ballet Boy’s back and invite him over for a few real meals.

Ballet Boy is also reassured by the news that some good friends are relocating to Houston to work at Baylor Children’s hospital and Rice University. BB was close to their daughter in grade school. They even put on a full production of River Dance in the back yard as a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital. The kids were equally bossy and I remember sometimes having a double-whisky after the play- dates/rehearsals. But mostly we have very happy memories of dinners and parties with them, and it is wonderful that they will be nearby.

So what is the Bad?

Ballet Boy is leaving home. At age 15. Sometimes this is more than I can bear.

Inspite of a really amazing merit scholarship that will cover his tuition, the dorms are expensive. I will be basically doubling our mortgage payment, when that has always been a stretch. My amazing mom is helping with the first few payments since she knows this is a hard time of the year for me.

Ballet Boy will be doing online school. My efforts to enroll him in local, free programs that my Iowa taxes pay for did not work out. The most reasonable online school that I have found is the Brigham Young Online High School Transcript Program. They have incentives for students who do well (free classes) and some financial aid. We are still scrambling to get BB enrolled and still don’t know what classes he will take. I’m concerned about not overloading him when he is dancing 9-4:30 all day, so it will be a part-time load.


Summer, as mentioned above, is not a good time in the life of a free-lance musician and adjunct teacher. Students come and go, between vacations and last-minute plans. My orchestra salaries and teaching salary won’t resume until the end of September. Fortunately the brewery is beginning to take off and soon not all the earnings will have to go back into the business.

And we only have 15 days with Ballet Boy. This is still surreal to me. We are working on cooking plans and shopping together as he will be on his own for his meal plan. Mostly he is resting up, trying to catch up with friends and processing his own journey and fears.


There will be no end. This is a journey that will be on together. It is worth every fear, panic, scrimping and scraping that we will do as a family to make it work. Success in the arts is an amazing gift. When hours of hard work and pain lead to the creating and sharing of works of art, everything becomes worth every sacrifice that has been made along the way.

The Brewmaster and I, my mom and others who have witnessed my son’s work couldn’t be prouder. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ballet Boy being amazing at age 15
Ballet Boy being amazing at age 15

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