Strong Women Series: Niroshika De Silva and Tutu School

About a year ago, I (Annie) had the absolute pleasure of having this amazing woman twirl into my life at a mutual friend’s wedding. She has created the dance studio of dreams – balancing the fun of dance, high quality teaching with a focus on joy, healthy body image and growing in strength as much as beauty as a dancer. With a degree in psychology, she knows what she’s talking about here – and she’s now a proud mama of her own little tutu-wearer. Talk about inspiring! 

In a quaint space where the lights of chandeliers bounce off of perfectly pink, purple, and yellow walls, little dancers giddily curl up on polka dots to whisper and then scream,

I LOVE BALLET!

With their enthusiasm radiating through the room and their excitement contagious beyond belief, it is clear that they absolutely do. This. This right here is the magic of Tutu School. To make sure that every child should know what it feels like to dance without feeling self-conscious about being “right” or “perfect.” To freely let their bodies flow to the scores of classical music, using their imaginations, to tell a story about empowerment, courage, and perseverance. And most importantly? To feel proud of the art that they create with their hearts and minds. Ballet at Tutu School is so much more than twirling. It’s a whimsical home for many children where they can learn important developmental skills and life lessons…they just happen to do so while wearing tutus or princely capes.

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As a former ballerina and current owner of Tutu School Union City, I can attest to the fact that BALLET.IS.HARD. Like REALLY hard. I stuck with it for my entire childhood and most of my adulthood because I wholeheartedly loved it but there were plenty of moments when it was also a love-hate relationship. In a somewhat strange way, I thrived in the ballet world through all of the competition because I succumbed to it and adopted the world as “my normal” since I didn’t know any better.

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Little Niro, Swan Lake, San Francisco Ballet

As horrible as that may sound, I don’t regret living in the world of ballet for one second because I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if I hadn’t. I learned to be ambitious, perseverant, and a whole host of other important skills that allowed me to become the psychologist and business woman I am now. However, I think if I had a tutu school experience as a child, I don’t know that I would have battled with myself as much during my tween years when I was confused about loving and hating ballet at the same time.

Many of us may recall the days when we explored ballet as young children. The odds are, you decided not to stick with it for a variety of reasons but a common one is that it was just strict and competitive. No one likes being told that they don’t have what it takes or only speaking when you’re spoken to (and let’s be honest, even then…just don’t open your mouth…just don’t). These classroom environments are designed to create the level of physical and emotional strength required to be a professional ballerina…except that it doesn’t leave room for continuing the appreciation of the art form when you’re young and unsure if you want to be a ballerina or not.

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Enter Tutu School. A whimsical boutique ballet school designed for young dancers to introduce children to ballet while fostering an everlasting appreciation for the art form because of the incorporation of creativity and imagination. In any given class, a child may leap like a fiery dragon, fly on the tops of their toes like a butterfly, or stretch like a rainbow in a magical garden. Children learn themes of bravery, forgiveness, and unconditional positive regard in classical stories such as the Firebird, Giselle, and Swan Lake. And just in case that’s not enough, they practice and develop skills of executive functioning, sharing, turn taking, and perseverance through learning short phrases of choreography and “performing solos” while dancing across the floor during class activities.

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Photo Credit Andrew Weeks Photography

As a mother of a daughter who already is showing interest in sparkles, headbands, and pink (guys, she’s seven months…am I in trouble?), I can absolutely say that I will expose her to classes at Tutu School. If she loves it and wants to pursue more formal training, great! If she doesn’t, that’s ok too (I’m not hyperventilating…I swear!) but she will gain invaluable skills from ballet classes at Tutu School that she can take with her no matter what she decides to do.

If you’d like your little one to experience the magic of a Tutu School class, then by all means, register for a free trial class! There are locations all across the Bay Area and in several other states as well! Classes are geared for children ranging between the ages of 18 months to 8 years old and they’ll skip, gallop, and leap their little hearts out. Be prepared for a whole bunch of cuteness!

If you’re not in the Bay Area, look for studios that mention that they base their children’s classes on creative movement until the age of 8, which is the developmentally appropriate age to start formal ballet training. If the studio offers a Trial class, that’s a good way to see if they uphold that philosophy or not!

What are your favorite dance memories? Do you still boogy in the kitchen with your kids today? Comment below!! Also, let us know about other #strongwomen we should feature here! 

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Niroshika De Silva is a mama, dance teacher extraordinaire, and owner of Tutu School Union City with a degree in psychology.

http://www.tutuschool.com

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Real

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In the beginning

Once upon a time (circa 2000), in a faraway land (Maryland), four young ladies found their soulmates in high school. No, not dudes. Best friends who balance each other in the best way and support each other through (literal and figurative) thick and thin.

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Fast forward 18 years…  We are now a doctor, a lawyer, a doula, and a financial planner deep in the weeds of young motherhood who learned to laugh together, cry together, learn together, and support each other through this season of life via one (in our humble opinion) very real, very wise, and brilliantly entertaining text chain, which is the foundation of much of this blog’s content.

We decided one day, on a whim, to start sharing our collective experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – with other people out there. The core value: keeping it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, style, money and just whatever else comes up. LockersToLittles was that flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants adventure and wow, that was somethin’ else!

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That blog life

The last 3 months have been a profound learning experience. We’ve laughed our buns off, cried in frustration and all 4 of us have learned more about ourselves than any of us thought possible. And most importantly, we discovered that there are other people out there who want to share our experience – you!! Wow! Our feedback and followers have blown us away with their support, ideas, and general awesomeness over and over.

We are taking that feedback and blasting off into a whole new level of the blogosphere peeps! You spoke and we have listened are are ready to serve.

To Infinity and Beyond

We are here to help others grow into the best version of themselves, and in the process are working to do the same. The best workouts for moms with no time? We gotcha. Best way to save for retirement no matter what age you start? You bet! Kids won’t eat vegetables? Coming to the rescue! Wondering what’s up with eating brie in pregnancy? #answeredthat. Just want to commiserate about this season in life being hard AF sometimes??? Oh yeah. Between the 4 of us we’ve had a whole lot of life happen and if it hasn’t happened to us, trust us, we know a guy.

People! The sky is the limit. Or is it?

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So if you haven’t visited with us before, then WELCOME. To all our returning followers, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. You’ve been with us this far and we cannot wait to share what we have in store with you.

To reach our much desired goals, we need YOU! Please enjoy and visit or lightly stalk us on our various social media outlets. Got a topic you want covered? Give us a comment, girl! Share your experiences, this is #momtribe and #parentlife and we’re all in this together. Oh, and share! ALLLLLLLL the sharing!

Welcome to REAL AS A M*THER!

xo, Annie, Christiana, Kristy and Margo

 

Dear Mom, I see you.

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My mom and my son.

Mom,

Gush-y-ness is almost bursting out of me just when I phonetically begin to say the word. The smile of endearment that presides every time you enter my thoughts, blows the whistle on the teenager you once knew, who would protest your protection and tell you to “go away”. The one who knew better than you, and the one who stubbornly and willfully “went my own way” in times you wanted me to go yours because you knew I’d benefit from your wisdom. The confident lioness of young womanhood who played all the sports, had the lifelong friends she’d always wanted, and the family that was nuclear.

That smile has a second agenda. It also reveals the broken, battered, unappreciated, rattled, and worn-too- thin woman that currently calls herself a young mother of young children. Ok, maybe not so young at 34, but young-ish. A woman drowning in her responsibilities, not gracefully, and making ultimate mistakes that may or may not be founded in anything but simple selfishness. The one who is struggling and cautiously pacing through learning the necessary lessons in respect, gratitude, positive parenting, and overall happiness from the foundation of family, unconditional love, loyalty, and respect that you have given me.

The one who has the uncanny ability to forget who she is, guilt herself, and throw away remembering the DAILY good she performs in order to feel the almost masochistic weight of the “it wasn’t good enough.”

The one who is now referring to herself in the third person, because maybe that part of me, isn’t really real.

Scratch that. she IS real. And she is enough. And she is beaming with pride to call herself your daughter.

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That I can open my arms to that part of me, is because of you. You love unconditionally and accept all of me at a capacity that I am so profoundly lucky to know. I see you.

I am writing to you, about you, so you can see who you are in my eyes. I write of my brokenness so you can KNOW that you had every part in creating the strength in me to see the imperfection, and tackle it. To fall onto that foundation that you’ve so preciously and delicately worked with me to build.


4151_683495597259_329027_nI write to you to show you that you are my way-shower, my example of what defines grace and sacrifice. But who also personifies a silent power that I never knew existed until I became a mother. I see you.

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I often hear people refer to you as “angelic”. Your heart is both understanding and practically constructive in the same breath. It is peacemaking, authentic, and wise. It is all shades of happiness, and dynamically persistent in the acceptance of all with which you are facing.

People always say, “What until you have kids.” And they are right. I could never understand what blessings could lie behind the characteristic of beautiful patience. I have always watched, in awe, your ability to quiet your mind, and open your mouth to reveal the most perfectly and divinely guided words. A shining example of outwardly expressed love. I see you.

You’ve walked with me through all of my trials and tribulations. First, through childhood, through shyness and tom-boyhood. Always holding me close, and letting the leash out little perfect inch by little perfect inch. You supported me through adolescence, finding the most subtle and gentle ways to nurture me into this new body, and to tell me that I needed to actually shower every once in a while.

Drove me, every day, to school (piano, basketball, lacrosse, dance, music, variety show practice, games, tournaments, etc)from the country, just so I would get to have the experiences I deserved. These were the memories for which you sacrificed your mornings and afternoons. Hell, your whole weekend sometimes. I never once saw the wear of that sacrifice of time on your face. I saw a woman who, without a shadow of a doubt, would always be there for me. Whose pride for her kids, for her life, for her part in the decision to give us this opportunity to have the world more open to us, overshadowed what I know now was ultimately painstakingly sacrificially beautiful.  I see you.

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Who was it that yelled to (not at) me to please take care of myself after surgery, and not overdo it? I saw it then as trying to control me. I see it now for it’s pleading love. The resonance of experienced nursing knowledge in your voice that I had a future in front of me. I had college sports at my feet, and not to ruin my chance to have that opportunity.

I see your sleepless nights of worry through college. Your courage to let me go. A brave mother who let me make my mistakes to learn to truly live. Mistakes in love, in education, and in life.

You walked with me in the journey through Massage School. Learning a new passion for energy work and discovering that you’re pretty badass at trusting your intuition. You showed me that I have an outlet for my human angst in prayer and meditation. And most importantly, in God.

It was you that introduced me to the concept of soul family so that I never have to feel alone, so long as I have a moment to reach out to them. You’ve only grown stronger in that ever since, making spiritual and soul connections that feed you, and build you stronger. Making your faith a priority among a lot of things. Not just a faith in Spirit. A faith in yourself, your family, and your son and daughter. I see you.

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And you did all this through the debilitation of your own pain. You never ever left my side as a mother. Even when the worries of your body’s betrayal left you emotionally weathered and physically exhausted, you never left our side. Not once. I so see you. This was the greatest lesson I ever could learn about the breadths of self that had been undiscoverable to me until my blinders were removed. You courageously walked down an aisle with stairs one gracefully and smiling step at a time, to watch me marry the man that reminds me so much of you and your strength. You didn’t even flinch. You were in so much pain but I never saw it. Sweet sacrifice. I see you. You were so amazing that day, and added everything to the happiness and whimsicality of it.

You gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given the day you told me that you, too, have been broken. Someone who seems to me to be the portrait of perfection. To know that you felt anything but that, in body and mind, and came out of the other side not only stronger and more sure of who you are, but also posturing towards happiness, was everything to me. You shared that you came out with a bigger capacity for compassion for others. If actions speak louder than words, then your day to day must be pretty loud, Mom.

Somedays, I feel as though I am that little girl who cried on the bus in first grade, homesick for my mother and my bed. Homesick for her soft hand stroking my head and back. Homesick in this big and scary world for what would make me feel whole, safe, and loved. But then, I remember you. I remember that I don’t care if you hate the photos I am posting, I want to share with the world the person who reminds me of all that I can be capable. Of the qualities that are within me, ready to be utilized at any moment.

I see you, Mom. You were are there, so vividly and immediately, in the moment that I became a mother myself; honoring my strength and wistfully studying your grandson in your arms. It was that day that I knew that I had always had the person I want to be in front of me. It is now that I finally know, I have that person IN me, as well. I am a part of you, as you are of me. I can be enough. I am enough as a mother, because I have been learning its embodiment from birth. My vision is loaded with images of what it looks like to be a mother, memories that create feelings of just what exactly that word means to me. What you, mean to me.

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I wish I knew then what I know now. As I try to stay above water in a world that seems judgemental and impossibly navigated as a mother of two, every bump and bruise I receive that sends me running back to “home”. That place I wish to run now lies within me. It is the part of me that is you. That is brave, silent and patient, strong yet gentle. Angelic, warm and inviting. Open and divine with ambitiously positive and fervent nurturance. Glowingly proudly with a heroic view of the world she has helped build, and hardworking to adjust to its ebbs and flows. You are timelessly beautiful. Breathtakingly loving, and kind just on time. That is who I see. Both in you and now, in the mirror. This bond of sisterhood, of soul connection, runs deep within us.

My proudest moment of my life will be the day I can say,

“My God, I am becoming my mother.” with a grin of resilience, fortitude, and pride in my co-creation, as I cannot think of anything better to be in this whole world.

Because I am your daughter, I see you alive in me.

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Yours with benevolence,

Your daughter.  Kristy

(Almost) At Home with Christiana: An exercise in Gratitude

As many of you may or may not know, I have been absent from the blog for the past couple of weeks while my family relocated up the coast. It was a typical military move with more paperwork than there is time, and plenty of bumps in the road.

And I’ll be honest, when driving up the eastern seaboard on little to no sleep with all of your children and your dog and half of your household belongings shoved into very close quarters in one vehicle, gratitude is NOT the first word that comes to mind.  Especially when your kids get food poisoning halfway through. (Yes, really.)

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Not that I have (BY FAR) the hardest life, or that I am (BY FAR) as zen as the Dalai Lama, but I have been asked more than once how exactly I cope with the frequent and potentially stressful disruptions of our gypsy-esque military family lifestyle. And in that case, the first word that comes to mind actually is gratitude.

Charles Dickens may have said it best:

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

In almost any situation, I have learned (and am definitely STILL learning) to temper my feelings of stress or frustration by exercising conscious gratitude. Every day, there are SO many things that all of us have to be grateful for, but unless we stop and really think about them, it’s easy to lose sight of them among a busy day’s hectic or potentially stressful events. But making the effort is worth it. The rewards are big. Like UNIVERSALLY big.  I have found it easier not only to deal with my somewhat un-hinged, out-of-school, mid-move, energetic children in a way that I can be proud of, but to be a whole PERSON I am more proud of. In fact, an active practice in gratitude, I think, is an incredibly simple but profoundly effective way for all of us to be people that we are more proud of. 

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There are several ways to incorporate more gratitude into your life. And there are literally no rules. Whatever makes you feel it. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a yogi, you just have to be you. For me personally, I have found meditating to be a wonderful way to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, and if you’re able to, you can find a fantastic led meditation on gratitude from UC Berkeley here.

If meditation is not for you, or, if you’re in a time or place where meditation is not an option (like driving on I-95 with two vomiting children, in my case) you can actively walk your mind through some major gratitude points like those listed below.

And don’t overlook the basics in your life. Know that if you are expressing these conscious thoughts, you already have several marvelous gifts:

  • The gift of life itself, the most precious gift. Your life. The lives of your dearest, the lives of those who love and support you.light sunset people water
  • The countless conveniences that are available to us today that many of our ancestors did not have, and that people in many parts of our world still do not have. Air conditioning, clean drinking water, vehicles and safe passage, ample food. Machines, schools, libraries, electricity.person washing his hand
  • The work put in by thousands of people you’ve never met to create life as you know it. From ancestors that fought for freedoms we enjoy today, to those who grow and deliver our food, those who maintain our roads, vehicles, pipes, roofs and infrastructure, to innovators and inventors, to deployed and fallen military members and first responders.soldier-military-uniform-american.jpg
  • The particular things you enjoy in your daily life. The gift of a warm cup of coffee  in the morning, or the gift of your comfortable bed at night. A conversation with a friend. A treasured heirloom. A warm snuggle with a beloved pet, or a bedtime story with your child. bonding cold cozy dog

When we actively appreciate the things we already have, we are able to see the richness surrounding us, and inconveniences or problems seem smaller in the balance of our rich, grateful lives.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Dr. Annie Answers: Little Personalities

This post is both confession and discussion. It’s about learning to be a mommy and learning who my child is. It’s embarrassing and important.

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Baby Bump, Photo Cred: Laura Renee Baxter Photography

When I was pregnant with baby #1, Hubby Pants and I decided we weren’t going to find out the gender of the baby before birth. In my household growing up, gender identity was something that individuals developed through their childhood and adolescence. Body parts present at birth often correlated with that identity, but sometimes did not. I felt strongly that I wanted to provide equal opportunity for our child to declare their own identity and not have it foisted upon them.

I decided early on that I loved lipstick, ruffles and sequins and could do cartwheels in high heels by age 7… but I also loved playing in the barn, catching snakes and playing sports. It was a little of everything.

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Case in point: Hangin with my big bros at Grandpa’s Eagle Lake house, best snake catching place, wearing a pink dress.

Kids should be able to be whoever they want to be.

The moment came for that baby to come into the world. H.P. had the honor of announcing the body parts, “It’s a girl!”. Her name came to me instantly the moment I looked at her tiny, sweet face. We dressed her in mostly gender neutral clothes (gifted clothes were mostly gender-specific and we had to use what we had), avoided pink or frilly baby gear and sticking bows on her head. Our baby toys were all mechanical – trucks, blocks, etc… No baby dolls. No dress up.

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Rosalyn Elizabeth

Fast forward to 15 months old. Little Rosie had a play date for the first time with an older girl who had a baby doll and play stroller. The look on her face when she beheld this item was like Christmas-Candy-Store-Seeing-a-Unicorn all rolled into one. She was obsessed.

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Fully self-styled

From there, her love of all things “girly” just exploded. This girl wanted all things pink, sparkly, frilly, and fancy. H.P. and I tried to encourage more balanced choices, “Pants are nice too!”, “OOh! Fun cars!”, “Let’s play in the mud!”. Left to her own devices, though, she would be in a floor-length sparkly gown, high heels, putting on make up and prancing around.

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It hit me at one point that my feelings about this were not about ‘accepting who she expressed herself to be’, but of embarrassment that she was a cliche of girlishness. I was the open-minded mom who was supposed to let her be who she wanted to be, but I found myself resisting in the same ways parents of a boy who wanted to wear dresses might. I blamed myself for setting an example of dressing up for dates with her daddy, wearing make up most days and ‘giving in’ to her desire to wear only fancy dresses and put on my lipstick.

I finally realized I had to let go of allllll my ideas about her gender identity and let her actually be herself.

The part that I struggle with the most is how to let her be her fancy self while still emphasizing that those outer trappings of appearance do not in any indicate a person’s value. She already has ideas about who is ‘pretty’ and who is not. Society actively teaches this. There are not any un-gorgeous Disney heroines. Even Moana is conventionally beautiful.

We talk constantly about how anyone can have long hair, wear make up or dress in fancy dresses regardless of whether they want to be called a boy or a girl. We are trying to balance the scales a little bit, but the truth is, we are a cis-gendered couple with mostly stereotypical peer families that we spend time with. Examples of this diversity are harder to come by in our life right now.

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Lipstick adventures

I have had to search far and wide for books like Your Body Is Awesome and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls with more positive and meaningful messages. We constantly reinforce that what’s on the outside doesn’t indicate real value that’s on the inside. I see a sea change coming in this regard compared to when we were children, but right now it’s still just a glimmer on the horizon. We also have been given the Little Mommy and Barbie Golden Books which are awful and she found where I hid them and wants them read (so I change all the words to a more empowering narrative because she can’t read yet… I’ll need a new strategy eventually).

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I’m sharing this because other parents out there might be struggling with whatever identity their child is expressing and I want them to know they are not alone. We have a never ending debate about Nature vs Nurture going on in our society. I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer. I think we need to respect our children’s nature – it is present and it is strong and it is undeniable. I think we need to nurture the better thoughts and behaviors that they express to the world. It’s a balance. It’s a challenge. It’s f-ing hard sometimes.

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Take the moments you can to just revel in the incredible, unique, fantastic human(s) you have brought into this world.

 

 

 

 

The universe decided to go easier on me for baby #2. Mimi is a fluid mix of having fun with a little girliness but also loving to build and play in the dirt. She, if anything, was raised with a lot more feminine clothes and toys around just by the nature of hand-me-downs. This helped me let go of some of the self-blame. They are who they are. We can help guide them but we also have to let them be themselves.

My hope is that they know they can dress like a princess and still be strong, be capable, be the boss of the world. Just like mom 😉 In what ways are your kids how you expected or not? Anyone else have a hard time with this? Would love your comments!

18_SMG_Ray_Anne_MD_FamilyMed-5654_print Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 and family doctor in the Sacramento area.