MILAN, Minn. (WCCO) – As 9-year-old Lexi Dietz works on her math problems at school, the grip on her pencil will force you to do a double-take. And it helps explain her nickname.
“They were like, ‘Hi, Fancy Feet!’ I was like, ‘Hi!'” Lexi said.
In the past two years, we’ve seen Lexi hold a book, paint and even eat without the use of her hands. Now she’s up to something new; the idea for which came when her class was asked to play on their recorders at their Christmas concert.
“Mrs. Tilma asked if I could use the keyboard. I’m like ‘OK,'” she said.
Lexi was born with a rare condition of weak muscles and stiff joints called arthrogryposis. But the condition has never kept her down.
“I used to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’ That’s pretty much the only song I knew how to play,” she said.
Now, Lexi’s playing songs which she describes as “really hard.”
For months, she put in hours to get ready for her school’s Christmas show, where she played songs that many of us couldn’t do with our hands.
Her secret? Little toes are better for strokes involving quick precision, and big toes are great for longer notes.
Lexi first tried hundreds of times with just one foot and realized she couldn’t get from one side of the keyboard to the other fast enough.
“[When] it goes fast, and I’d have to [go] slower,” she said.
Just before the big concert, Lexi had a revelation: use the other foot. After that, she had no problem with her timing. And when the big day came, she was ready.
Her friends said she nailed the performance.
“They said, ‘Wow! Good job!’ I’m like, ‘Thank you!'” she said.
As the other kids watch “Fancy Feet,” Appleton Elementary teacher Robyn Rademacher says his students are learning an important lesson.
“Lexi never complains, not once,'” Rademacher said. “And she’ll be the first to say, ‘Who do you wanna be? I wanna be me.’ She never opts to be somebody else, she’s always happy with herself.”
And like with every good artist, the moment they finish, you’re left wondering just what they’ll accomplish next.
“Never give up because if you keep practicing and practicing, you’ll make it!” Lexi said.
Mr. Rademacher, Lexi’s favorite teacher, says this wasn’t the only thing special about this past Christmas. At Lexi’s request, all of his students opened up their Christmas gifts during a classroom gift exchange using only their feet.
Click here to watch Aristea’s “Season of Hope” story from December about Lexi and her family.